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.


Thank for the great content. I cant wait to read much more from you.


    Thank you for this feedback. We greatly appreciate it.


Knee accumulate fluid not long after it has been aspirated and gets very painful.may need very torough exa


Wonderful! This has been a really informative post. Thank you for sharing this information. looking forward to more posts.Useful information. Keep sharing!!!


Thank you my Primary Dr won’t refer me to Orthopedic Dr and I need that referral to go he is trying to treat it . Still pain and swelling.


    Most Orthopedic doctors don’t require a referral. The only reason you should need a referral is if your insurance company requires it. You can call your insurance company to verify their requirements. Additionally, if you feel you need to see an orthopedic doctor and your insurance company does require a referral, a Physical Therapist might also be able to provide you with that referral. Hope this helps.


I fell on left knee three weeks ago on the side walk. this was a very hard fall. got an xray. nothing broken. I’m still pain, there is still swelling and tenderness in knee. do I need to have it looked at and who do I see¿


    If nothing is broken, most minor sprains and injuries can be treated at home with rest, ice and elevation.
    If you are still experiencing pain though, that doesn’t seem to be improving, it is always a good idea to get it checked. I would recommend you contact an orthopedic knee specialist for a consultation.


My knees have doubled in size in the last ten years. I was very active in my younger years and still try to exercise every day. My knees are always stiff now and lately my left knee has given out and caused a great deal of pain in the bottom right side. I’m going to make an appointment to see a specialist but I so hope I don’t have to have a knee replacement. Thank you so much.


Pulled MCL and tore meniscus 3 years ago, it has healed as much as it will but knee still occasionally dislocates and needs to be manually reset when leg is bent greater than 90 degrees with weight on it, could excess fluid be causing this ?


    Often with a meniscus tear, it can feel like something is getting stuck in your knee. This can happen intermittently where sometimes it is bothersome and other times it is not. You will typically have pain with deep flexion and pivoting. At this point you would assume that your old MCL injury is healed. However, if you feel these prior injuries are interfering with activities you want to do and you feel your knee is swollen, then I would recommend having your knee evaluated by an orthopedist. Swelling is a sign that there is something going on in your knee that is causing excess fluid.


I fell on my left knee a few years ago. I have arthritis in that knee. Actually both knees. Since the fall, that knee has hurt a lot more than the right. Right after the fall the x-ray showed no tears or breaks. Now my left knee is in constant pain. Why?


    We are unable to determine the source of your knee pain without a proper examination. There are too many causes for general knee pain to rule out without an in-office visit.
    If you have swelling, limited range of motion, an unstable knee, or increased pain, I would recommend scheduling an appointment with an Orthopedic knee specialist. I hope you find this helpful.


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