If you have a profusely bleeding leg or a broken bone, you probably will call 911. But if your knee pain isn't quite that dramatic, how do you make the distinction between something that a doctor should definitely look at right now and a minor strain that just needs to be iced?
Here are five situations in which you should seek medical attention for your knee pain.
1. You Can't Walk Normally
Is your knee pain severe? Does trying to walk hurts more than you can stand or makes you feel like you will pass out or fall over? Stop walking on that knee and then seek medical attention. If your knee pain is that bad, you might have a broken bone. In this case, go to the ER.
However, if your knee only hurts when you walk on it, and you don't think it's broken, avoid the expense of the ER by having a family member or friend help you to urgent care instead.
2. The Pain Doesn't Go Away
Living in pain for a week until your regular doctor can schedule you in isn't a great option. That's what urgent care is for: to let you get treatment quickly when you need it. If you have knee pain that's persisted for more than a couple of days, the logical next step is to go to urgent care.
3. The Pain Keeps Coming Back
Maybe at first you don't think your knee pain is worth taking to a doctor. If you don't think you injured the knee and the pain is just an ache that goes away after a gentle ice treatment and some rest, you might have just let the pain keep going. But if your knee hurts mysteriously on a regular basis, you need to have a doctor check your knee out. Patellofemoral syndrome often causes mysterious knee pain.
Going to urgent care while you have an episode of knee pain may be the most practical solution. After all, if you make an appointment with your doctor, the pain may be gone again by the time of the appointment. And your doctor is likely to ask you to move your leg around and tell them if it hurts, which will be much more productive if you're in the middle of an episode at the time.
4. The Knee is Misshapen, Swollen, or Hot
A warm, swollen knee can mean you have an infection or a serious injury. If the knee is misshapen, that can indicate a physical injury such as a dislocation. In that case, your knee won't heal normally with just home care. Kneecap dislocation is also a possibility. In either of these cases, you need to seek medical care at once.
5. The Pain Gets Worse Instead of Better
If you iced the knee, put it up for a few hours, and took some ibuprofen and the knee hurts even worse a few hours later, that can be an indication that home treatments aren't going to cut it in this case. Maybe you have a more serious injury than you thought at first that a professional needs to diagnose.
These are five situations where the practical and safe thing to do is to seek immediate medical attention. But whether you decide on an emergency room visit or stick with urgent care, remember to let someone else drive. Driving with undiagnosed knee pain is unsafe, especially if it's in the leg you use to drive with.
If you're in the Coral Springs area, Walking Urgent Clinic is available for both you and your whole family for any urgent care needs. Check our website for directions and hours.