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Knee Pain

Is this your symptom?

  • Pain in the knee

Some Basics...

  • There are many causes of knee pain. Overuse is a common cause of knee pain.
  • Most people can treat minor knee pain at home.
  • People with severe knee pain should see a doctor.

Causes of Knee Pain

  • Arthritis: includes degenerative, gouty, infectious, inflammatory, and traumatic arthritis.
  • Baker's Cyst: this is also called a popliteal cyst. This is fluid collection in a cyst that bulges out from the knee. Problems include painful or painless swelling in the area behind the knee.
  • Cellulitis: this is a bacterial infection of the skin.
  • Injury: like from a bruise, dislocation, fracture, sprain, or strain.
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: this is also called chondromalacia patellae.
  • Prepatellar Bursitis: this is a fluid filled sack on the front of the knee. It is just under the skin in front of the knee cap.
  • Tendonitis: this is an overuse injury.

Pain Scale

  • None: no pain. Pain score is 0 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Mild: the pain does not keep you from work, school, or other normal activities. Pain score is 1-3 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Moderate: the pain keeps you from working or going to school. It wakes you up from sleep. Pain score is 4-7 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Severe: the pain is very bad. It may be worse than any pain you have had before. It keeps you from doing any normal activities. Pain score is 8-10 on a scale of 0 to 10.

When Is Knee Pain Serious?

  • Severe pain and cannot walk
  • Knee swelling with fever (may have an infection of knee joint)
  • Pain and/or swelling in one calf

When to Call for Knee Pain

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Severe pain (can't stand or walk)
  • Redness of skin around knee
  • Pain or swelling in one calf
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Knee pain keeps you from working or going to school
  • Knee pain lasts more than 7 days
  • Knee pains off and on for weeks or months (are frequent, come and go)
  • Swollen knee
  • Fluid-filled sack just below knee cap
  • Limping when walking
  • Knee often gives way or buckles when walking
  • Knee often locks, gets stuck, or catches
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mild knee pain

Care Advice for Knee Pain

  1. What You Should Know:
    • There are many causes of knee pain. Overuse is a common cause of knee pain.
    • With treatment, knee pain most often goes away within 1 week.
    • You can treat minor knee pain at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Treatment for Knee Pain from Overuse: Overuse can cause muscle strain or joint irritation. This is very common after activities like tennis, basketball, and jogging.
    • Cold: For pain or swelling, use a cold pack or ice wrapped in a wet cloth. Put it on the sore knee area for 20 minutes. Repeat 4 times on the first day, then as needed.
    • Heat: If the pain lasts over 2 days, apply heat to the sore knee area. Use a heat pack, heating pad or warm wet washcloth. Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed.
  3. Rest Your Knee: Do this for the next couple days. Avoid doing things that make your pain worse. Avoid activities that put a lot of strain on the knee. These include deep knee bends, stair climbing, and running.
  4. Pain Medicine:
    • You can take one of the following drugs if you have pain: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
    • Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Your knee pain should start to get better within a week.
    • If it does not get better or if the pain comes back, see your doctor.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Knee pain lasts more than 7 days
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Last Reviewed: 9/17/2019 1:00:30 AM
Last Updated: 3/14/2019 1:00:25 AM

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