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    Knee Pain Overview

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    When to Go to the Hospital for Knee Pain

    If you cannot put weight on your knee, feel sick, or have a fever or if your knee is red and hot, you should consider going to the ER to be evaluated by a doctor because of the possibility of a fracture or infection.

    • Many fractures may require immobilization in a specific position or surgery.
    • Infections need immediate attention. They can be managed but require prompt care.
    • Putting off seeing a doctor may hinder healing.

    Other signs and symptoms that demand emergency evaluation:

    • Unbearable pain
    • Pain that does not improve with rest
    • Pain that wakes you
    • Drainage
    • Large wounds
    • Puncture wounds
    • Swelling, if you are on a blood thinner (warfarin or Coumadin) or have a bleeding disorder (such as hemophilia)

    Getting a Knee Pain Diagnosis

    History: Even in today's world of technology, doctors rely on a detailed history and physical exam more than any single test.

    The doctor will typically want to know the exact nature of the pain.

    • Where in the knee is your pain?
    • What does the pain feel like?
    • How long has the pain been present?
    • Has it happened before?
    • Describe any injuries to the knee.
    • What makes it better or worse?
    • Does the knee pain wake you up at night?
    • Does the knee feel unstable?
    • Have you been limping?

    The doctor will also want to know a bit about you.

    • Do you have any major medical problems?
    • How active is your lifestyle?
    • What are the names of the medications you are taking?

    The doctor will want to know about any related symptoms.

    • Do you still have normal sensation in your foot and lower leg?
    • Have you been having fevers?

    Physical exam

    • The doctor will likely have you disrobe to completely expose the knee. If possible, wear shorts to your appointment.
    • The doctor will then inspect the knee and press around the knee to see exactly where it is tender.
    • In addition, the doctor may perform a number of maneuvers to stress the ligaments, tendons, and menisci of the knee and evaluate the integrity of each of these.
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