Is Your Knee Injury Serious?
Imagine that you’re out for your morning run, playing your favorite sport, or participating in another activity that requires the use of your knee. Suddenly, you twist your knee, feel a pop, and completely lose the ability to bear weight on your knee. You know that not all knee pain is cause for alarm, but this feels different. It feels like a significant problem. If you find yourself wondering, “How do I know if my knee injury is serious?” your best bet is to speak with a Dallas orthopedic specialist.
At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, we diagnose and treat many knee problems, including ACL injuries, bucket handle meniscus tears, knee sprains, and much more. Our specialists have treated countless knee conditions resulting from sports participation, auto accidents, and even the effects of aging. No matter the source of your pain, we’ll have you back on your feet and back in the game – all without severe knee pain. To schedule an appointment with us, please call our office at 469-200-2832 today.
Common Causes of Knee Joint Injuries
Knee injuries have many causes and sources, both preventable and unpreventable. For example, many athletes suffer acute knee injuries, which are sudden injuries caused by direct blows to the knees or abnormal movement of the knees. In many cases, these injuries result from the knee’s range of motion being pushed beyond what it can reasonably handle, therefore injuring the knee.
However, individuals can also suffer knee injuries from overuse. Overuse injuries result from repetitive motions that place repeating or lingering pressure on the knee joint. Examples of activities that can lead to overuse injuries include jumping, biking, skiing, and jogging.
Other knee injuries can result from chronic conditions in or around the knee. Several different conditions can lead to swelling, stiffness, and pain in the knee joint. Examples of these conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, knee bursitis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, Baker’s cysts, cellulitis, and many others.
Ultimately, knee pain can originate from many sources, and it can be difficult to pinpoint the source of your pain on your own. The best thing to do is seek medical attention from a qualified orthopedic specialist about your pain. They can evaluate your symptoms, diagnose the source of your pain, and develop a personalized treatment plan to get you back to your active lifestyle.
Common Types of Knee Injuries
The knee joint is crucial for our mobility as bipedal beings. It’s a highly complex joint with many moving parts, including bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and muscles. When even one of these parts is damaged, the integrity of the entire joint could be in jeopardy. Some common knee injuries that can greatly affect the overall health of your knee joint include the following.
- ACL tear: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the ligaments found inside the knee at the front of the joint. It helps control the front and back movement of the knee along with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). It is common for athletes to suffer a torn ligament during a sports game, especially if their sport involves sudden stops or direction changes.
- Meniscus tear: The meniscus comprises two pieces of cartilage that act like shock absorbers between the tibia and femur. It helps both stabilize and cushion the knee. A torn meniscus is another common sports injury that can happen when suddenly stopping or changing direction.
- Dislocated kneecap: Dislocations of the bones in the knee can occur either from trauma or due to abnormal structures in the knee.
- Knee fracture: It is possible to fracture the bones of the knee, particularly the patella (kneecap). When the knee suffers a high-energy blow, such as when falling from a great height or during a car accident, this can lead to fractures.
- Tendon tear: The tendons connect the muscles around the knee to the bones in the knee. These structures can stretch and tear, particularly during running and jumping sports.
What Are Considered Serious Knee Injuries?
Depending on the severity, any of the most common knee injuries could be considered a serious knee injury. Fractures are obviously serious injuries, as they involve broken bones. However, dislocations, ligament tears, cartilage tears, and tendon tears can also be considered serious knee problems.
What Are the Symptoms of a Knee Injury?
Most knee injuries have very similar symptoms, and it’s important to recognize them if you suspect you’ve injured your knee. Some of the most common symptoms of a knee injury include the following.
- Intense pain
- Knee swelling
- Warmth to the touch
- Crunching sensations
- Popping sounds
- Inability to straighten the knee
If you are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, you may have a knee injury. We strongly recommend seeking medical attention promptly to avoid worsening the potential injury.
6 Signs to Look for That Mean Your Knee Pain Is Serious
So, now you know the symptoms of knee injuries. But what exactly can these symptoms tell you about your knee injury? Can they give you an idea of whether or not the injury is serious? The answer is yes! In the following sections, we break down the most common symptoms of knee injuries and explain what they could mean for your knee.
1. Knee Instability
In many cases, individuals will feel knee instability after they suddenly stop, twist, or change directions, pushing their knee joint past its normal range of motion. If you feel that your knee is unstable, there is a high chance that the knee is injured.
2. Knee Locking
Some injuries result in an inability to fully straighten the knee, or knee locking. Knee locking can have different causes, including swelling, inflammation, and meniscus tears. When the meniscus tears and moves into the middle part of the joint, this prevents the joint from straightening properly. These are commonly referred to as bucket handle meniscus tears.
3. Weakness of the Knee
If you feel weakness in the knee and cannot bear weight on it, there’s a good chance that your knee is injured. Common sources of weakness in the knee include patellar dislocations, patella tendon tears, and tears of the quadriceps tendon. Knee weakness is a significant sign of injury, and we strongly recommend seeing an orthopedist if you are experiencing this system.
4. Severe Swelling of the Knee
Swelling is a common sign that someone has injured their knee. This swelling often results from blood pooling in the joint, usually after something within the joint tears. Blood that pools in the joint is referred to as hemarthrosis. When blood and fluid pool in the knee, the pressure and inflammation can cause a lot of pain.
5. You Felt or Heard a Pop
The popping sensation that patients feel and hear during a knee injury can indicate a few injuries. These injuries are ACL tears and patellar dislocations. The “pop” comes from tissues within the knee tearing.
6. Difficulty Walking
Having any form of knee pain can make it difficult to walk. However, minor injuries like bruising usually won’t stop people from walking. Major injuries, however, can make it extremely difficult and painful to walk. They could stop people from walking entirely without aids like crutches or support from another person. If you are experiencing a high level of difficulty walking, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
When Should I Be Worried About My Knee Injury?
If you suspect that you’ve suffered a knee injury, it’s better to be safe than sorry. We always recommend seeing an orthopedist for sharp pain in the knee, even if you don’t think it’s from a major injury. However, we know that some prefer to try home care before taking a trip to the doctor. If your pain does not improve the same day with home care, we strongly suggest visiting an orthopedic specialist.
How Do I Know If I Tore Something in My Knee?
The only way to know for sure is to have an orthopedic specialist examine your knee. However, one of the most telltale signs that you may have torn something is hearing or feeling a “pop” in your knee when the injury occurred. This pop could be indicative of torn tissue within the joint.
When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain
If you have any of the following symptoms, we strongly recommend seeking prompt medical attention.
- You have a locked knee that you cannot fully straighten.
- You heard a popping sound at the time the injury occurred.
- There is severe pain, and pain relievers don’t do much to reduce pain.
- You have trouble bearing weight on the knee.
- Your knee has significant swelling.
- The knee is red, warm, and tender to the touch.
It’s important to see a sports medicine doctor as soon as possible. This is because some injuries require surgery and prompt medical attention to avoid worsening the damage to the knee joint. Many younger athletes assume that some rest and recuperation will do the trick, but this is not always the case.
By visiting a doctor, they can diagnose your injury and inform you of its severity. If it does not require immediate intervention, they can advise you of some strengthening exercises to aid in your recovery and prevent knee pain in the future. Addressing these problems as soon as possible could save you from injuring your knee in the future.
Contact a Knee Pain Specialist at SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy Today
At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, not only do we diagnose and treat knee injuries, but we also provide rehabilitation for patients. After they have undergone surgical or nonsurgical treatments, our team of talented physical therapists helps patients strengthen the affected joint and relieve pain through various exercises. If you’re struggling with knee pain, it’s time to take back control of your life. Call us today at 469-200-2832 to schedule an appointment.