Any advice on weird knee pain problem appreciated.
May 3, 2012 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Weird, intermittent knee pain question

What is causing Ms. Justice's sudden attacks/outbursts of knee pain? Extremely painful, occurs a couple of times a week for 10-15 seconds, localized in a small area on the side of the left knee, seems to have nothing to do with exercise or movement of any kind, not triggered in any way by tapping or gripping the knee area or anything else, sometimes so painful that it wakes her up in the middle of the night. Knee moves fine; no swelling or other physical manifestations of any problem. The only problem is sudden, twinging bursts of short-lived but extremely intense pain. Ms. Justice is not a runner, but occasionally does low-impact workouts -- yoga, swimming, cycling, etc.

It's not a charley horse, it's not connected to a muscle or tendon. Does it sound like a pinched nerve? It seems unconnected to any kind of movement at all. Maybe she tore something? What on earth could it be? What specialist, if any, should be consulted?
posted by Mr. Justice to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
I would start with the general practitioner. They will be able to help narrow it down.
posted by elizeh at 7:08 PM on May 3, 2012

I want to prepare you for the idea that nothing is wrong and there will be nothing to be done. I have a lot of pain issues. I had a similar pain near my ankle. MRIs and x-rays and ultrasounds later the conclusion is that it's all in my head. There's a term for that medically, but I forget what they kept calling it. The thing about phantom pain is that it still hurts. It's still pain. I just want to put out there there that not all pain has a cause or a solution.

The bright side? After years of it making me winch at the weirdest times it just went away.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:35 PM on May 3, 2012

an orthopedist would generally be who you're looking for, but i'd probably start with my gp for a referral if i didn't already have one. could be anything. torn meniscus, bad ligament, arthritis, etc. most of these wouldn't have any swelling or other external signs, they'd just hurt when they felt like hurting. impossible to say without someone taking an mri, x-ray, etc..
posted by facetious at 10:50 PM on May 3, 2012

Definitely want to get it checked, but it might well just be something that a few weeks of physical therapy could clear up -- I had a similar problem (mostly going up stairs, but some other times), which apparently resulted from a combination of recovery from pregnancy (since your bones actually realign, stupid biology) and, you know, middle age. It's easy to just have overly tight tendons on either side of the thigh (and/or under-strength muscles) that don't quite keep everything in the right position.

I still do stretching exercises at least once per month, 4 years later, and no trouble!
posted by acm at 7:55 AM on May 4, 2012

This exact thing happened to me about 12 years ago. Weird sudden severe knee pain, sometimes in the middle of the night. Pain was short-lived but would sometimes leave a little residual soreness. My sympathies to Ms. Justice... what I still vividly remember was awful.

I went to an orthopedist who honestly never really explained it well but I understood it was related to the patella. He wrote a prescription for physical therapy, which at the time I considered voodoo, but I was so desperate I went. The "attacks" persisted about 2 weeks into the PT, but then stopped as mysteriously as they began as my leg above and below my knee became stronger. I dropped some weight as insurance and it has never recurred. And I don't consider PT voodoo anymore!
posted by Breav at 4:46 PM on May 4, 2012

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