Ah hurt mah knee. Please hope.
November 20, 2009 3:52 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday I started having sudden sharp pain and stiffness in my left knee, above and around the kneecap. I suspect I injured it doing squats and lunges (with bad form) the night before. Could it get better on its own, if I rest for a few days? Or should I see a doctor (and what kind)?

- It only hurts when I bend it, e.g., if I am sitting in a chair or walking down stairs. It does not hurt when I walk, or go up stairs.
- I had exercised around 5 pm, but my knee seemed normal until around 10 am the next day.
- I'm in my mid-twenties and otherwise healthy.
- I'm a dedicated exerciser. I have worked out 30 - 60 mins on most days for the past decade. Normally I do not do lunges or squats because of tight quads, but I have been incorporating them into my routine over the past month or so. I don't think I know how to do them properly; no matter how I try, it always feels wrong.
- Right now I am wearing an ace bandage, icing it frequently, and trying to keep it elevated as much as possible. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation -- right?)

My big question is:

1) What's the likelihood this will clear up on its own if I baby it for a few days or a week? How long can I wait before seeing a doctor, and what kind?

My auxiliary question is:

2) Since it doesn't hurt when I walk, is it okay to walk as my primary exercise routine while healing? Or will that prevent healing, and why?

I know you are not my doctor. And I have browsed previous AskMes, but feel a little overwhelmed. Please hope me.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Doctor-wise, you want to see either an orthopedist or someone who specializes in sports medicine. They should be able to help you with this specific injury, and with improving your form so you decrease your chances of injury in the future.

Otherwise, you are doing everything right so far. I couldn't predict whether it will heal on its own, though in my IANAD opinion it probably will if you put as little stress on it as possible for a week or so. If it's still bothering you after then, then it's probably doctor time. It sucks having to skip working out for more than a day when you're dedicated, but it's better than jumping back in right away and busting up your knee even more.

I'm not sure how good or bad walking is as an alternative exercise - I'd avoid it for at least a few days. If you have access to a pool, swimming is a really good workout and puts no pressure on the joints.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:15 AM on November 20, 2009

Best answer: I would see a sports med doctor sooner rather than later. I delayed seeing an ortho for an ankle injury and continue to pay dearly for it long after the fact.
posted by jquinby at 5:53 AM on November 20, 2009

Rest, give it a few days, or even weeks. If it's not getting worse, no need to see a doctor. A couple of years ago knee hurt for about 6 months because I never really gave it time to heal. I went to see a doctor, they did x-rays for about 2 hours and found nothing. They suggested an MRI, but luckily I was too busy to go, because my knee got better once I gave it a month of rest (did a lot of walking during that month but no running/kickboxing). Every case is different, but if it's not horrible pain and if you can afford a couple of weeks of no exercise, avoid the doctor for now.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 6:07 AM on November 20, 2009

I would delay seeing a Doc. If you see a doc it will almost certainly turn into something that a doctor will have to treat. You can go to the doctor a bit later (a wekk, a week and a half) if it does not get better.
posted by OmieWise at 6:08 AM on November 20, 2009

Oh, and just as another data point, swimming hurt a whole lot when my knee was messed up (more than running!), which just goes to show that everyone's case is different, so follow your gut about the doctor thing and don't just listen to strangers on the internet.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 6:09 AM on November 20, 2009

Best answer: Rest it. The likelihood of you having done serious damage is small and usually that is accompanied by immediate Sharp pain. You can take some ibuprofen also to reduce swelling and pain if you want.
I have seen orthopedists for various injuries over the years and my experience is it has to be pretty acute or longstanding for them to do much more than maybe prescribe physical therapy.
One more thing you might do id foam rolling. Google it, it is a nice way to to self massage and can help with injury prevent tion.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:15 AM on November 20, 2009

Not a doctor of course but I squat a lot! I'd say rest if for a good long while, 2-3 weeks and even when it feels 100% make sure you ramp up knee-centric activity really slowly and give yourself a chance to see if it's really healed.

And then fix your form, there are a lot of videos available online of correct exercise form. Watch some, then video yourself doing the exercise and compare.
posted by ghharr at 6:22 AM on November 20, 2009

It sounds kind of like runner's knee. (IANYD) Mine was from running, but it similarly hurts going downstairs, and i've noticed lunges bring me some pain. I've just been resting mine and trying to strengthen my quadriceps. It hasn't gone away (4-5 months later) but it is getting better.
posted by Vhanudux at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2009

Response by poster: Update: my knee magically started feeling about 70% better. It still hurts if I do extreme bending, but it no longer hurts when I just sit in a chair. All of a sudden, like turning on a switch. So I'm thinking something popped back into place that had popped out...?

Does that make a difference in how I should approach treatment?
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 8:25 AM on November 20, 2009

I went to an orthopedist for intermittent pain after feeling a twinge while playing tennis. Six months later I still have intermittent pain but 1/3 less cartilage.
posted by digsrus at 9:30 AM on November 20, 2009

As always, IANAD.

I'm not in agreement with Zambrano, but I will say that the sudden decrease in pain is a Very Good Thing. I imagine that most orthos will tell you that you likely had a sprain or a strain. When is comes to knee injuries that are healing by themselves, the key is to stay off it as much as possible. Also, elevate. I like ghharr's approach. If the pain doesn't subside, and persists at the current level, you may have a small tear. Imaging (usually an MRI) is the only way to tell something like that. Some small tears will heal, others require surgery and rehab to fully recover from. I hope that you don't have a tear.

One thing about orthopedics that is absolutely maddening is the variety of opinions that you'll get from between them. For most doctors, one second opinion is all you need. For ortho, you could talk to a dozen good doctors, and they'll all have different opinions about what they see, and what you should do. Right now, I don't think that anyone has a good answer for that. The best way to get a grip on this kind of situation is to get a really good MRI of your knee (don't use an "Open" MRI, get the classic shove-your-body-into-a-tube kind), and take it to as many orthos (by recommendation, if possible) as is reasonable. There will be some intersection as to what they think is wrong, even if they have different opinions on what you should do about it.

Anyway, the stories you're hearing here are pretty common, and it's a shame that there are less standards in orthopedics. I hope that your knee just gets better by itself. Good luck!
posted by Citrus at 10:53 AM on November 20, 2009

This is creepy, a week ago I had a similar conundrum, except after 3 days it still wasn't better. It was something to do with my patella (kneecap) not tracking properly.

In my case the bending from a 90 degree angle to straight out was ridiculously painful, as was putting weight on that knee when walking on stairs. I figured out that the kneecap needed to be held in place for me to bend the knee and a weird popping noise would occur from that area relieving the tension.

My doctor recommended simple painkillers/anti inflammatories, a small dose, to help ease off the pain and stiffness. I still have a week to go before I return, but the next step is exercises to strengthen the inner muscles of the leg, since the outer ones are apparently becoming dominant. Already after a few days it feels much better and I can put weight on the knee while going down stairs again.

Since its so similar, it may be worth a trip to the doctor.
posted by darlingmagpie at 10:56 AM on November 20, 2009

Response by poster: My knee feels almost 100% better now. I ended up seeing an orthopedist, who said something probably almost popped out, but worked its way back. He recommended at least one session of physical therapy (mainly to see if I whether I have bad habits, or if this was just a fluke).

I'm glad I saw someone right away, even though it would have cleared up on its own just by resting. Exercise is such a big part of my daily routine that I didn't want to take any chances.

Thanks to all!
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 10:14 AM on November 29, 2009

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