What Doctor to See for Knee Pain
The knee joints are very susceptible to injury and other damage. These mobile joints support your body weight and allow you to walk, run, jump and climb, but they can be injured or suffer from degenerative disease. When you experience discomfort or injury, you need to know what doctor to see for knee pain.
There are many different types of knee pain and what doctor to see for knee pain depends on the pain you experience. While there are specialty knee doctors, you do not need to see a specialist for all types of knee pain. Knowing the different types of injuries can determine what kind of doctor to see for knee pain.
Types of Knee Pain and Injuries
The knee is a complex joint with many components. It has three leg bones that is connects the femur, tibia and fibula, along with the knee cap bone. There are various ligaments that hold the joint together, as well as tendons and muscles. Plus, there is cartilage and bursa that can be sources of pain.
When it comes to knee pain, you can suffer from acute pain from an injury or ongoing chronic pain from injury, degeneration or disease. The source of the discomfort can determine what type of doctor to see for knee pain. Common causes of knee pain include the following concerns.
- Knee Strains and Sprains
- A knee strain is damage to the tendons that connect bones to muscles. A knee sprain is damage to the ligaments that connect the bones in the knee. Strains and sprains can be minor or severe – minor damage can heal on its own while severe tears in the ligaments or tendons can require medical treatment.
- Arthritis comes in over 100 varieties, referring to inflammation in the joint. Knee pain is often caused by arthritis, the most common type being osteoarthritis. This is a progressive disease that can result in breakdown of the cartilage in the knee and may lead to chronic knee pain and possible joint surgery.
- Broken Bones
- Acute and sudden knee pain and dysfunction can be signs of broken bones in the knee. A cracked kneecap or other bone can require immediate medical care and you may need to see a knee doctor for treatment.
- Tendonitis, Bursitis or Other Soft Tissue Pain
- Jumper’s knee, runner’s knee, IT band syndrome and other soft tissue injuries can cause ongoing knee pain. Many of these conditions are caused by repetitive movements that irritate or inflame the tendons, tissues or bursa in the knee joint.
- Autoimmune Diseases
- There are autoimmune diseases that can attack the joints and cause inflammation, including in the knee joint. These diseases are not the same as arthritis, which usually affects individual joints and may have other symptoms.
Choosing Your Knee Doctor
Based on the type of knee pain you have, you may want to see different types of knee doctors. First, you need diagnosis of your knee condition or injury – you may be seen at the emergency room or by your primary care physician for initial diagnosis. Your primary care doctor may refer you to a knee specialist.
- Orthopedic Knee Doctor
- Orthopedic doctors specialize in bones, muscles, tendons and ligament conditions, all of which are included in the knee joint. When you need a knee doctor who specializes in joint injuries and disorders, an orthopedic surgeon is often who you will see for sprains, strains, fractures or arthritis.
- Orthopedic doctors can diagnosis the source of knee pain and prescribe treatment. This can include non-surgical options like medications, physical therapy and injections. They may also recommend and perform knee surgery for advanced arthritis or severe injuries to the knee components.
- If your knee pain is caused by an autoimmune disease versus a specific knee condition, your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist. These types of diseases tend to have many other symptoms beyond just knee pain and require more advanced treatments for overall wellness.
- Physical Therapist
- For soft tissue injuries or arthritis, your primary care doctor may refer you to a physical therapist for treatment. Physical therapy can be used to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the knee to reduce pain and improve knee function.
While a specialist knee doctor may be needed for treatment, if you have a sudden or severe injury that causes pain, you should seek immediate medical care. Once you receive initial diagnosis and treatment, you may be referred to a specialist to continue your knee rehabilitation.
What doctor to see for knee pain can vary depending on your injury or condition. Orthopedic doctors will be the most common specialist you will see if you have a severe acute injury or chronic knee pain. However, you can always start by seeing your primary care physician to diagnose and begin your treatment plan.
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