When to Visit ER Near Me for Help With Your Knee Pain

Do you experience chronic or acute knee pain? If so, you aren’t alone. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 12 million visits to the doctor’s office each year are due to knee pain. In addition, more people visit an orthopedic surgeon in the U.S. for knee pain than any other complaint.

There are many potential causes for knee pain, including knee osteoarthritis, a torn meniscus, and other injuries. While you cannot stop the aging process, there are several actions you can take to help decrease the risk of knee pain and injuries.

What can cause knee pain?

As the largest joint in the body, your knees are also one of the most easily damaged. Ligaments help control the motion of your knee by bracing joints against forces and connecting your bones. On the other hand, cartilage cushions your knee and helps distribute pressure when the joint is in motion.

Knee pain can also be caused by osteoarthritis, which is when joint cartilage wears away. This condition can result from repeated injury, excessive body weight, and chronic joint deformities, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Osteoarthritis affects middle-aged and older individuals mostly; however, a knee injury sustained as a teen or young adult can make you more prone to develop this disease earlier in life.

Another common knee injury is anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). Many anterior cruciate ligament tears are caused by changing direction quickly, pivoting, twisting, or landing awkwardly after a jump. Sports such as basketball, skiing, soccer, and volleyball are common causes of an ACL tear. Athletes will often feel a “pop” in their knee when the injury occurs as well as knee pain and instability.

Medial collateral ligament injuries, most common among football players, are often caused by a blow to the knee. The less common tearing or spraining of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is the result of contact sports. A quick twist or simple misstep can result in a torn meniscus or knee cartilage.

Curious about what other fitness-related activities can cause injuries? Check out our blog, Exercising Gone Wrong: Fitness Injuries That Can Require an ER Trip.

Fortunately, the medical team at ER Near Me is experienced in caring for trauma and sports-related injuries such as these. With no wait time, ER Near Me provides the highest quality care and concierge services and is fully equipped to address your injuries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. To find your nearest ER, visit our locations page.

Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases can also cause knee pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and psoriatic arthritis. Gout and pseudogout can also cause recurrent swelling and pain. 

Additional causes of knee pain might include:

  • Baker cyst — A fluid-filled swelling behind your knee that may occur with swelling from arthritis or other causes.
  • Bursitis — Inflammation from continual pressure on the knee due to overuse, injury, or kneeling for an extended time.
  • Fracture of the kneecap or other bones.
  • Patellofemoral syndrome — Pain in the front of your knee around the kneecap.
  • Dislocation of the kneecap.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome — Injury to the thick band that runs from your hip to the outside of your knee.
  • Cancers that either begin in the bones or spread to your bones.
  • Osgood-Schlatter disease — A condition that causes pain and swelling below the knee joint, where the patellar tendon attaches to the top of the shinbone (the tibial tuberosity).
  • Infection in the bones of the knee.
  • Infection in the knee joint.

How do I know if my knee pain is serious?

You know your body best; when in doubt, it’s always best to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor. However, in more serious cases, or if you can’t get an appointment with your doctor, our team at ER Near Me is ready to help.

With a knee injury, you might feel your knee give out from under you or experience a “popping” sensation. Occasionally, a knee injury may not cause pain right away but will develop swelling and pain 24 to 48 hours later. In severe cases, you may feel excruciating pain and the inability to walk.

Many doctors recommend a “RICE” method of rest, ice, compression, and elevation for the first 1 to 3 days after a minor knee injury. Take it easy after you injure yourself, and call your doctor right away so you can receive proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Below are a few additional tips for minor pain or incidents:

  • Ice your knee for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Take ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve) for pain and swelling. Acetaminophen can help relieve pain but not swelling. Be sure to speak with your doctor before taking these medicines if you have medical problems or if you have taken them for more than a day.
  • Wrap your knee with a stocking or elastic bandage.
  • Elevate your leg to reduce swelling.
  • Rest and take it easy, avoiding physical or strenuous activity until you talk with your doctor for further treatment.
  • Avoid putting any weight or pressure on your knee.
  • Sleep with a pillow underneath or between your knees.

How to alleviate knee pain and prevent knee damage

The steps to alleviate your knee pain will depend on what type of injury or disease you have. However, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends the following actions for people of all ages to help reduce the risk of an injury and prevent knee damage:

  • Always warm-up before exercises by walking, riding a stationary bike, or doing a low-impact activity. Stretch your muscles in the front and back of your thigh to relieve pressure on your knee and reduce tension on your tendons. To learn more about low-intensity exercises, check out the exercising portion of our blog, Dieting Myths You Didn’t Know About and Harmful Exercises to Avoid.
  • Try walking, stair climbing, or doing a supervised workout with weights to strengthen your leg muscles and help maintain stability in your knees. Check with your doctor before trying any new exercise and to ensure it’s the right fit for your needs.
  • Avoid high-intensity workouts and any sudden changes in exercise intensity. Increase or decrease the force of your exercises as well as the duration gradually.
  • Make sure your bicycle seat is high enough so that pedaling does not put too much pressure on your knees.
  • Wear shoes in good condition and fit properly to help maintain balance and leg alignment. Knee problems can be caused by pronated feet (feet that roll inward) or flat feet. Orthotic shoe inserts that are custom-molded to the shape of your foot can help reduce these issues.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of osteoarthritis.

When to go to the ER for knee pain

As with most injuries, it can be difficult to know when to go to the ER for knee pain or if you should schedule an appointment with your doctor or specialist. If the pain and swelling intensify, pain is severe, or you cannot reach your doctor, visit your local ER Near Me immediately. 

Other signs you need an ER visit include:

  • You experience severe pain, even when not bearing weight.
  • Your knee is deformed or misshapen.
  • You cannot bear any weight on your knee.
  • Your knee clicks, buckles, or locks.
  • You cannot straighten your knee all the way out or flex it.
  • You have a fever, redness, or warmth around the knee.
  • You experience pain and swelling, bluish discoloration, tingling, or numbness in the calf below the injured knee.
  • You still experience pain after two to three days of treatment.

Sometimes, your knee injury can’t wait for a doctor’s visit, and knowing when to go to the ER for knee pain can make a significant difference long term. ER Near Me offers no wait time and superior concierge service. Emergency treatment is available for both children and adults anytime you need it. Visit the clinic closest to you for emergency services or schedule an appointment by phone.

Looking for joint-friendly exercises you can do to prevent knee damage and more tips about knee pain? Check out our free printable PDF for a quick rundown of knee pain causes, treatment, and joint-friendly exercises.