How Do I Know If My Knee Pain Is Serious?

The knee is the joint that attaches the bones of the upper and lower legs.
The knee is the joint that attaches the bones of the upper and lower legs.

Some knee pain may subside with adequate rest and other physical therapies, which can be done at home; however, knee pain that doesn’t dissolve easily with rest should be considered serious and requires medical attention. Knee pain is the most common complaint of the musculoskeletal system. The knee is the joint that attaches the bones of the upper and lower legs. The main functions of the knees involve:

  • Bending
  • Straightening
  • Bearing the weight of the body

Signs and symptoms that can pose a risk include:

  • Excruciating pain in the knee that seems to spread upward or downward
  • Pain that doesn’t subside with rest and physical therapies
  • Pain that awakens you
  • Pus drainage
  • Swelling
  • Large wounds
  • Puncture wounds
  • Popping sound accompanied by knee pain
  • Deformity of knee

What causes severe knee pain?

There might be numerous medical conditions and factors that cause severe knee pain; however, all the causes can be clubbed into five main causes—trauma, degenerative tissue disorders, connective tissue disorders, metabolic problems, and infection.

Knee pain can also be acute and chronic based on the causes. Acute knee pain can be caused by a trauma or infection, whereas chronic knee pain is caused due to inflammation and injuries.

Trauma includes:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): It is a sports injury caused due to the violent twisting of the knee.
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL): More serious than ACL, it occurs due to a serious blow on the knee, causing excruciating pain and swelling.
  • Tendon rupture: Extensive stretching or kicking can rupture the tendon (the band of fibrous tissue attaching the muscle to the bone) present inside the knee.
  • Meniscal injuries: Injury or overuse of the meniscus (cartilaginous structure) that cushions the knee joint can lead to its tear. The meniscus will tear off and float in the knee joint.
  • Knee dislocation: A powerful blow to the knee may cause knee dislocation leading to a medical emergency.
  • Dislocated kneecap (patella): Injury to the knee or forceful straightening of the leg causes dislocation of the kneecap.
  • Bursitis: The joint sac of the knee gets inflamed as a result of a trauma, an infection, or crystalline deposits.

Degenerative tissue disorder involves osteoarthritis, which is a degeneration of the cartilage in the knee causing pain, stiffness, and joint dysfunction.

Connective tissue disorder involves rheumatoid arthritis, which is a painful, inflammatory autoimmune disorder affecting all the joints of the body.

The metabolic disorder involves gout and pseudogout, which involves crystalline deposition in the knee joints causing severe pain and inflammation.

Infection involves the inflammation of the knee due to various microorganisms. Gonorrhea is one such organism that infects the knee causing pain and swelling.

Other causes include:

  • Tendonitis: Inflammation of the tendon in the knee typically seen in a basketball or volleyball player
  • Osgood-Schlatter disease: This condition occurs due to repetitive stretching of the knees, causing inflammation of the bony protuberance at the top of the shin bone.

What are the different ways to prevent knee pain?

Knee pain cannot be avoided, although trying out certain things may make you less susceptible to sustaining a knee injury. These include:

  • Staying slim
  • Stretching your knees or performing strengthening exercises
  • Exercising according to your body
  • Protecting the knee with knee pads
  • Using proper footwear


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