When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain

Unfortunately, knee pain is a common problem for many Americans of all ages. While younger people tend to experience knee pain after an injury, knee pain can also be caused by a number of medical conditions, obesity and arthritis.

If you’re experiencing acute or chronic knee pain, you may need to see a knee specialist for treatment.

What is a knee specialist called?

First and foremost, you need to know what type of doctor to see for you knee pain. If you were to go to your general practitioner about your knee pain, he or she would most likely refer you to an orthopedic doctor.


The University of Utah explains in general terms that, “Orthopedic doctors (sometimes also called orthopaedic doctors or orthopaedic surgeons) are doctors who focus on caring for your bones, joints, ligament, nerves, and tendons (the tissue that connects bones and joints).” As such, a knee pain specialist is called an orthopedic knee specialist.

Keep in mind that many orthopedic doctors specialize in just one or two parts of the musculoskeletal system, so it is important to verify with any new doctor that he or she specializes in knees before making an appointment.  

When to See a Knee Specialist

Immediately after suffering a knee injury, you may experience some common symptoms in addition to knee pain. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Popping noise and/or feeling
  • Crunching noises
  • Swelling, redness and warmth to the touch
  • Stiffness and/or inability to fully straighten the knee
  • Weakness and/or instability

When to See a Knee Doctor

Not all knee pain requires medical treatment – most minor tweaks, sprains and injuries can be treated at home with rest, ice and elevation. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should contact an orthopedic knee specialist for a consultation.

If you:

  • Have distinct knee swelling or an obvious deformity
  • Can’t bear weight on your knee
  • Your knee “gives out” when you try to walk
  • Have a fever in addition to redness and swelling
  • Are in severe pain

Chronic Knee Pain

Living in constant pain and being unable to live a normal, active life shouldn’t be your norm.

If you’ve been experiencing chronic knee pain, it’s time to see a knee pain specialist. While some chronic knee conditions cannot be cured, treatments can help reduce your symptoms and pain.

Common Causes of Knee Pain


Knee and joint pain can be caused by a host of acute injuries, medical conditions and chronic diseases.

Common Knee Injuries

  • ACL and MCL tears: These ligament tears are two of the most common knee injuries in active adults.
  • Knee fractures: Typically caused by a trauma, fractures of the patella, femur and tibia within the knee joint are extremely painful.
  • Knee dislocations: Typically caused by a trauma, knee dislocations can also be caused by knee abnormalities.
  • Meniscal tears: Most often caused during sports, these tears can also result from arthritis or aging.

Arthritis in the Knee

  • Osteoarthritis: The most common type of arthritis, this “wear and tear” condition is usually caused by joint deterioration and aging.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: A chronic autoimmune condition, RA can affect any bone in the body and is the most debilitating form of arthritis.
  • Septic arthritis: While rare, the knee joint can become infected, during which septic arthritis can quickly cause significant damage.

Other Knee Issues

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome: Often called “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee,” this syndrome can cause pain and stiffness in the front of the knee and around the kneecap, making it difficult to climb stairs or kneel.
  • Pes anserine (knee tendon) bursitis: An inflammation of the bursae (cushion) between the tibia and the hamstring’s three tendons that causes pain on the inside of your knee, below the joint.

If you’re experiencing knee or joint pain and would like to talk to an orthopedic knee specialist, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have or to set up a consultation.


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