April 24, 2005 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 24 y/o college student with a relatively inactive lifestyle - I don't work out, but I'm not a couch potato. My right knee had been popping while walking to class this semester, especially uphill. On Friday, I went out dancing... ever since, it feels swollen and hurts to sit "Indian-style" or straighten it completely. Should I be worried?

I hate doctors and will only go if it's serious.
posted by trinarian to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
If the pain and swelling don't go down much in 2-3 days, go see a doctor.
posted by kavasa at 3:17 PM on April 24, 2005

You might have a Baker's cyst, in which case you'd need a minor operation for it to be put right.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:18 PM on April 24, 2005

Response by poster: you know, I was a baker's clerk for three years...

I Googled it... this says Baker's cysts have pain located at the back of the knee... the pain here seems more concentrated at the sides and lower end of the kneecap.
posted by trinarian at 3:28 PM on April 24, 2005

I had the exact same problem about 10 months ago. The popping, the swelling, the fear that my knee would give out at any moment. It could be a number of things, so see a doctor soon. I was lucky and my problem went away with regular use of a compression bandage and a prescription anti-inflammatory after about 2 weeks.
posted by pmbuko at 4:15 PM on April 24, 2005

I've had two dancing injuries: to the hip and to the foot. The hip went away on its own over months, but the foot problem stayed with me for years, prevented me from dancing much more, and was a big downer all-around. Go to a doctor, and if they can't help, and if it still bothers you in a few months, go to another doctor. (I went to one podiatrist who did nothing, and a couple of years later went to another who has helped immensely.)
posted by lorrer at 5:46 PM on April 24, 2005

Do you remember your knee ever giving out on you, even once, with sharp pain that went away and hasn't really come back? If so, this might be a partially-torn ACL (and the swelling is due to other ligaments having to work harder than they should). If it is, believe me, you want to have it looked at sooner rather than later. A doctor should be able to tell you yay or nay by performing a simple pull test with his/her hands - no xrays are needed.

ACL injuries aren't just for pro athletes. Take it from someone who had his torn while running around with a water gun, drunk off his ass. That was one expensive reconstruction surgery - thanks insurance!
posted by blindcarboncopy at 7:17 PM on April 24, 2005

Try massaging your patella. It's the floating bone at the front of your knee. Grab it and move it side to side, up and down and in circles. It's going to feel a bit weird doing this, most people don't realize how mobile it really is.

The patella can become immobile which causes discomfort like what you're talking about. There's a bit of info here.
posted by substrate at 7:25 PM on April 24, 2005

I had a similar problem, and it turned out that my patella had been torn into three pieces. If the pain goes away in a few days, that's not the case, but if it doesn't, you need a doctor and probably an x-ray.
posted by bingo at 7:44 PM on April 24, 2005

Best answer: Geez, what's with the doomsday scenarios? kavasa seems to be the only voice of moderation here.

R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) over a few days will solve the vast majority of joint pains related to overexertion. Take some anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen/Advil (note that Tylenol, Aspirin, etc. are only analgesics). Eat right, take it easy on that knee, and start panicking only if the pain persists for more than a week.

If it's something more serious like a ligament tear, the only difference between operating on it now or two weeks later (aside from your personal aggravation) is that the attached muscle will atrophy more.

It is unlikely that you suffered a patella (knee cap) fracture if you didn't fall directly on it. And unless you were drunk as a skunk, you'd remember that had happened and would be able to put two and two together yourself.

Go to the doctor at the end of the week if things don't improve at all.
posted by randomstriker at 11:49 PM on April 24, 2005

Don't put off a doctor visit for too long. My aunt hurt her knee last December, and walked on it for 2 or 3 months without going to the doctor. Turns out she walked crooked to minimize the pain, and now her spine's crooked and she needs an operation, can't walk very much at all anymore, etc. I doubt you want to find yourself in a similar situation because you hoped it would go away.
posted by splice at 6:48 AM on April 25, 2005

I Googled it... this says Baker's cysts have pain located at the back of the knee... the pain here seems more concentrated at the sides and lower end of the kneecap.

Well, as long as your knee read the textbook too, you're clear. I find that my patients' parts don't always read the textbook, though. Sometimes things even happen that the textbook says can't happen.

Dr. Baker was the guy who described the cyst in question, by the way; it's not caused by working in a bakery. I don't particularly think that's necessarily what's wrong with you; I mentioned it as an example of a non-intuitive knee thing that the lay person might not think of first, that any doctor would know to check for, and that would not get better on its own. There are many things that meet those 3 criteria - a Baker's cyst is just one of them.

Since it sounds like the knee has been giving you trouble for months, and since you describe that it's getting worse, and not better, it appears to me that there's no reason to expect it would suddenly jump the rails and decide to get better on its own. The next step, then, is to determine what's wrong, and that needs a doctor visit and an x-ray.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:32 AM on April 25, 2005

I've had similar symptoms for quite sometime. When I asked my doctor he did some (simple office) tests and diagnosed the problem as a 'floating patella'. PT exercises could help, but you should get an expert (doctor) opinion.
posted by evilelf at 12:54 PM on April 25, 2005

t is unlikely that you suffered a patella (knee cap) fracture if you didn't fall directly on it.

I didn't fall directly on mine.
posted by bingo at 7:06 PM on April 25, 2005

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