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What causes acute knee pain?
Acute knee pain, or knee pain that has a sudden onset, is very common and there are a lot of reasons for having pain relative to the knee. One of those is the most obvious and that’s an injury to the knee where somebody falls, twists their knee or is involved in some sort of athletic injury or a car accident. And there’s a lot of things around the knee that can cause pain.
What types of things around the knee cause pain?
One of those would be an injury to the bone, a fracture in and around the knee joint. Those are very acute, very severe, typically, and the patients often end up in the emergency room. And if the pain’s that bad, they really need to seek medical care right away.
What are other types of acute knee injuries?
Other acute injuries to the knee can cause cartilage tears and cartilage damage. We can have acute injuries to tendons. Overuse injuries can cause acute tendonitis. We see that in the weekend athletes. If and when that mild to moderate pain doesn’t get better, they’ll usually do the right thing and consult with their physician.
Can excessive exercise cause acute knee pain?
Yes. A lot of times, that is from an overuse type of a problem. They’ve been working out in the garden all day and that evening their knee is just killing them. That is what we call an acute inflammatory condition. Those can usually be treated by some simple ice and anti-inflammatories and see how they’re doing. And most patients realize that they haven’t injured their knee severely — they’ve just overused it.
Can overuse of the knee cause this type of pain as well?
With a little overuse, a person who has an underlying arthritic problem, they’ll have flare-ups of that. The first time, it’s a little bit scary because they’ve not had that kind of knee pain before.
What can I expect if I visit a doctor about my acute knee pain?
When a person comes in with an acute knee injury, certainly the first thing we do is find out how it happened, take a good history, and find out details of that patient’s medical history to make sure that there’s not other things that can be causing it. The other thing we do is a thorough physical examination. We certainly want to rule out extrinsic causes of that pain such as a back injury or hip injury or hip conditions that patients really don’t realize they have because they sense the pain in their knee. And that’s not that uncommon.
What comes after the exam?
The next thing we would be likely to do after a physical exam would be to take a plain x-ray of that patient’s extremities to determine if there is anything, what I would call, glaringly obvious, like a bad arthritic problem, a fracture or other bone or joint changes that we can see with a plain, simple X-ray. When a person does have knee pain that they think needs to be evaluated by a physician, there are a lot of options.
What should I do if I think it's time to see a physician?
If you have a family practitioner or internist, or any other kind of physician, you can certainly seek the advice of that person. There are other avenues to seek such as 1-800-82-SHARP, a phone number that they can call to find a family practitioner or an orthopedic surgeon. And Sharp.com certainly has a list of all the physicians that practice within the Sharp system.
Find a San Diego Orthopedic Surgeon
To learn more about orthopedics at Sharp or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for San Diego orthopedic surgeons or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm.