Sometimes, it can be hard to know when you should see a doctor. With certain conditions, it makes sense to take a “wait and see” approach. When it comes to knee pain though, the consistent advice is: never try to “wait it out.” If you experience any combination of the symptoms listed here, make an appointment to see a doctor about your knee pain.
Difficulty bearing weight: When you stand, do you shift your weight to avoid putting extra pressure on your painful knee? There could be many reasons for this, but it is best to see an experienced knee doctor for an expert diagnosis.
Knee appears misshapen: Stand in front of a full-length mirror and look at your knees. If the knee that is bothering you looks misshapen or different from your other knee, you might have a dislocated knee cap, broken knee or patella injury.
Knee instability: When you put weight on your knee, does it feel wobbly as if could collapse? In many cases, this feeling of instability is a sign of ligament damage. Ligament problems may become worse if you continue using your knee as usual, so see a knee doctor if this is happening to you.
Limping: If your knee pain is bad enough that you need to limp — or if the pain is making you avoid walking altogether — you should see a knee doctor. Your pain could be due to “wear and tear,” bone injury or another condition.
Pain that affects daily life: Stop for a moment to assess your daily routine. Are you dodging certain activities as a way to avoid knee pain? If so, it may be a sign that it is time to see a knee doctor.
Pain that is not improving: If you have had worsening knee pain for several weeks, it is time to see a knee doctor.
Pain that keeps you up at night: Does your knee pain make it hard for you to fall or stay asleep? Sleep is critical to overall health, so if knee pain is impacting your sleep, make an appointment to see a knee doctor.
Swelling that limits range of motion: If your knee is swollen, it could be an injury. If the swelling has reduced your range of motion so much that it is difficult for you to straighten or bend your leg — and this has been happening for more than a day — you should see a doctor.
Finally, always keep in mind that if you notice a sudden change in your symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible, especially if you are an athlete. And if you experience an extreme symptom such as a high fever, you could have a serious infection, so seek medical care immediately.