Chronic knee pain is, unfortunately, on the rise. A 2019 Washington Post article on knee pain reported that about 1 in 4 adults suffer from chronic knee pain. This is an increase of 65% over the last four decades, a troubling trend that can't be directly traced to an aging population or the sharp rise in obesity.
As any older adult will tell you, a little bit of pain is often just a fact of life. Your knees play a central role in your movement, and all that wear and tear, the most common cause of general knee pain, can catch up to you. But there is a difference between pain that requires a couple of over-the-counter painkillers and pain that affects your quality of life. At what point do you need to see a specialist for your knee pain?
Do you suffer from chronic knee pain that you think may need the attention of a specialist? If so, come see our team at Steven E. Nolan, MD. Dr. Nolan, our board-certified orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience, has received numerous top-surgeon awards.
Here, he discusses the causes of chronic knee pain, common symptoms, and when it’s time to see a specialist for your pain.
What’s behind chronic knee pain?
The most common cause of chronic knee pain is osteoarthritis. This degenerative tissue disorder occurs as the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. Eventually, the cartilage may totally disappear, leaving your bones to rub together and cause tremendous pain. Osteoarthritis worsens with excessive stress on the knee joint, often caused by repeated injuries or obesity. Other common causes of chronic knee pain include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Baker’s cyst
Infections and obesity can also be direct causes of chronic knee pain. Referred pain — pain you feel in one part of your body that’s actually caused by pain or injury in another part of your body — may also be a source of chronic knee pain.
Everyone experiences knee pain in slightly different ways, but common symptoms include:
- Constant ache
- Sharp, shooting pain when in use
- Dull burning discomfort
- Swelling and stiffness
- Instability in the knee
- Popping or crunching noises
Beyond these symptoms, knee pain can also cause redness around the knee joint and may make your skin hot to the touch.
When it’s time to see a specialist
The common symptoms of knee pain are serious on their own, and you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out if any of them become unbearable. However, you should absolutely make an appointment with Dr. Nolan if you experience any of the following:
- Can't bear weight on your knee or feel as if your knee is unstable or gives out
- Have marked knee swelling
- Are unable to fully extend or flex your knee
- See an obvious deformity in your leg or knee
- Have a fever, in addition to redness, pain, and swelling in your knee
- Have severe knee pain associated with an injury
Dr. Nolan diagnoses the source of your knee pain, and if necessary, he may recommend knee arthroscopy to repair damage to your knee joint. Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical technique that causes less trauma and has shortened healing times when compared to traditional open surgery.
To learn more about chronic knee pain and get a specialist’s opinion, request an appointment online or over the phone with Steven E. Nolan, MD, today.