Knee injury question
July 6, 2014 8:35 PM   Subscribe

I might have injured my knee. But it doesn't hurt at all, and it isn't swollen. Am I right to be worried?

I ran 8 miles this morning (much longer than I normally run), and soon after I lifted a heavy object from above my head. I twisted my knee just a bit while doing this, and felt a sharp popping sensation and moderate pain (maybe 3/10) for maybe 30 seconds. After that I didn't feel any pain, and it hasn't swollen up at all a few hours later.

My knees look and feel exactly the same as each other, but the injured one kind of "itches." And it hurts a little if I twist it, but not much. I seem to have a totally normal range of mobility and I haven't felt unsteady at all. But I can't figure out how there would be a popping sensation unless I tore something.

I'm planning to stop by urgent care tomorrow after work. Or should I skip work and go first thing in the morning? I am not normally a hypochondriac but I made the mistake of googling and now I'm incredibly anxious.
posted by miyabo to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
I'd wait a few days before going to urgent care. My line of thought (not a doctor) is that knees are very very sensitive and you would feel significant pain or have limited range or both. And I have had times where I've hurt my knee and experienced lots of pain and a day or two later I'm perfectly fine.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:57 PM on July 6, 2014

Based on my experience with joint injuries, you'll know when you wake up tomorrow whether you've really injured it or not (it often takes a few hours of inactivity to feel it). So wait until then to decide what to do.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:05 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can do all the standard things for a joint injury (rest-ice-compression-elevation) and then see how you feel tomorrow. If you aren't injured, none of them will hurt you, and if you are, they're where you'll start treatment for most connective-tissue injuries anyway.
posted by gingerest at 9:20 PM on July 6, 2014

No expert here but my friend tore a ligament in her knee and did not experience too much pain doing so. For a while afterward, she have random very painful sensations when doing certain movements, which made her follow up on it. She eventually had the ligament replaced. I tore a ligament in my hand moving a tv and it did not really hurt at the time. For several months after, the joint would randomly swell up and hurt an then go back to 'normal' (the tear was allowing instability that caused other small injuries to keep occurring). So some anecdata. Based on this anecdata and your description, it's possible you did hurt yourself. You will probably have further pain if so but it may be difficult to connect it to today if you have some pain free period. Keep an eye on it....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:28 PM on July 6, 2014

But I can't figure out how there would be a popping sensation unless I tore something.

What? Your knee is a joint. Joints pop ALL THE TIME.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:36 AM on July 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

Put a bag of frozen vegetables (or other ice) on your knee, 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off. (From my own experience, the pop of a ligament tear is a very different noise from the banal knee crack sound.)
posted by Carol Anne at 5:38 AM on July 7, 2014

There's a difference between the feeling of a joint popping and a deep sort of...snapping sensation.

Do you have a primary care physician? This would be a good question for them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:54 AM on July 7, 2014

Here's some more anecdata: about two months ago I picked up something relatively light and felt a sharp stab in my left knee. For a few weeks after that, I got that same stabbing sensation when putting weight on it. I babied it for a while and it went away. It still hurts every now and then, but not that stabby kind of hurt and plus all my joints hurt so that's basically just back to baseline. I'm going to leave it alone for now.

I'd advise you to do the same. Baby it for a while - but don't stop using it - and if the pain goes away and you can do all your normal activities then leave it at that. I'd stick to walking for two weeks and work the running back up slowly. Keep in mind that knee surgery is one of the most common unnecessary surgeries. Some people tear a ligament and don't know about it until years later because the rest of the muscles and ligature picked up the slack.

What else do you do fitness-wise? Muscular imbalances can lead to knee injuries - make sure you are strengthening your hamstrings and glutes in addition to all this running. Speaking of which, I have some strong feelings about running and joint health but I'll just say that if you can run on soft surfaces like a soccer field or a nice nature trail, your body will thank you in the long run.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 9:07 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. I did go to urgent care and they said it was probably a very small meniscal tear, and I should just take it easy for a week and do some leg strengthening exercises after to keep it from happening again.
posted by miyabo at 6:54 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

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