Athletes of all kinds rely on their knees to allow them to run, walk, and assume the correct stance for gameplay. Some muscle soreness is normal when engaging in physical activity, but joint pain is always a sign of trouble. If your knee begins to hurt, you should make an appointment with a sports injury physician. Here are four steps your doctor might take to treat your knee pain.
1. Perform an X-ray and MRI.
X-ray and MRI machines are important diagnostic tools that sports injury physicians can use to rule out certain types of injuries. When you're experiencing knee pain, your doctor will first want to make sure nothing is broken. A fractured kneecap will be visible in X-rays. X-rays can also let your doctor see if your knee is aligned properly. MRI machines let your doctor get a better look at your tendons and cartilage. An MRI can show your doctor if there's swelling and fluid building up behind your kneecap.
2. Suggest noninvasive treatment options.
Many knee injuries are caused by excessive use or poor form while exercising. If you haven't damaged your bones or tendons, your pain may be caused by inflammation. Your doctor may suggest that you wear a compression knee brace to decrease swelling. They may also tell you to take a break from your current physical activities to allow your knee to heal. Your compliance is integral to the success of your treatment. If you must continue to exercise during your convalescence, ask your sports injury physician to let you know which activities are safe for you.
3. Offer prescription medication.
Inflammation can create a vicious cycle of pain and continued injury. When the soft tissue inside your knee is inflamed, it will continue to be pinched by the surrounding bones, which leads to more inflammation. Your doctor may prescribe naproxen or a similar NSAID to help. This medication will reduce inflammation so your body can heal. NSAIDs also act as painkillers. Your doctor may prescribe a course of steroids to further reduce your swelling. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or injected directly into your knee.
4. Repair torn ligaments and replace kneecaps.
In some cases, healing is impossible without surgical intervention. If you've torn a ligament or tendon, your sports injury physician can perform arthroscopic surgery to repair it. Arthroscopic surgery requires a smaller incision, which will allow you to heal more quickly. Knee replacement may be indicated where arthritis or another degenerative condition is causing your pain.