I'm too young for new knees!!
June 23, 2008 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Is my knee screwed or just screwing with me?

I had an accident on my Piaggio back in September of 2006 where I fell onto my knee directly on the kneecap. After many doctors visits, MRI's, X-rays, physical therapy and seeing an ortopedic doctor, I was told that it was bruising underneath the kneecap and that there really wasn't any point in surgury, since that isn't anything that can be repaired. There were no tears or rips in any muscle but I had a lot of pain and occasional swelling along with a "snapping/popping" of the knee when I would walk or turn a certain way. Any direct pressure on the knee would have me almost sobbing in pain.
Fast forward to today. I am very uncomforable when sitting a certain way for any legnth of time, especially with my legs crossed or just straight out. I drive and sit with my leg up in the seat with me, almost indian style, and that feels much better. I still get the "snapping/popping" pain occasionally and rarely does it swell. However, within the past few months I get this horrible pain which feels like my knee is about to give out. It gets tight (a lot like your finger feels right before you pop the joint), and has a stabbing and almost "hot" pain to it. I have not re-injured the knee and I have not changed anything in my lifestyle that may contribute to this. I had this happen last night and this morning... I also have a bruise on my knee today.
I do not have insurance until August, so I need to put off going to the doctor. My question is, is this just part of that pain that will "probably always be there" like the doctors have said or is something else possibly going on? What may be causing this? Thanks in advance for any insight.
posted by ForeverDcember to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
that's not normal aches and pains. i have no idea what it is, but it is worth visiting another doctor for a second opinion.

it is possible that alll you need is some physical therapy, though--it may be that yes, you did just get a bad bruise, but favoring that knee while it healed caused some muscles to weaken, some ligaments to tighten, etc, which is now the source of your trouble. so your pain may not be the injury itself, but an inadvertant result of the injury.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:27 PM on June 23, 2008

If you absolutely cannot get to a doctor, at least consider buying an orthopedic knee brace to take some weight off the joint, restrict movement, and apply pressure to limit the swelling. Less than $50 IIRC. Buy some arnica cream to reduce swelling. Less than $20.

An anecdote regarding discomfort while sitting for long periods of time;

After six years of rugby I have one joint (right knee), one tendon (right Achilles'), and one muscle (left quadriceps) that will get sore and tight after sitting for over an hour, especially if I'm confined in movie theater seating or space-inefficient small cars (booo Detroit, yayyy Germany!). The tight feeling and pain quickly disappear when I warm up and begin exercising. Slight improvement in the onset and intensity of discomfort, I hope due to a lengthy stretching regimen, but I've only been off rugby for ten months at this point. So far, discomfort while sitting has not affected my active life.

However, if I were to suddenly develop pain like you described, I would see a doctor immediately. Is there a clinic in your area that provides inexpensive care? A prescription anti-inflammatory might help you through to August.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:33 PM on June 23, 2008

After lots of go-arounds with knee pain after a bike injury in 2003, they finally figured out that I have arthritis in my knee, and some of your discomfort sounds somewhat familiar. (I'm actually a bit owie today I think due to a minor bump Saturday. Stupid weak truck door spring....) Especially the popping & discomfort with long stretches of sitting.

But like Derive, with that sort of severity I'd be thinking about going to the doc.

On the other hand, if you absolutely can't afford to go until August, additional measures: ice packs & advil (or generic equivalents). In some weather, I absolutely have to ice+Advil before bedtime to get decent rest. Also, leg lifts (laying on my back, leg out straight & left) seem to help with strengthening the thighs in a way that helps hold everything into place.

Good luck!
posted by epersonae at 1:46 PM on June 23, 2008

I have the exact same popping sensation sans swelling but with pain when I climb a flight of stairs. same no-show on mri's and x-rays. I have seen a doc a couple of times lately in order to find out what it could be and while I haven't figured out what it might be, it's the swelling you described that rings alarm bells in my head. all the docs I ever spoke to about this asked me about swellings. this was important to them and they made it clear that they suspected it to be a meniscus problem were that the case. something else on the radar was osteoporosis but if I understood them right that would have shown up in x-rays.

try to get onto ikkyu2's radar, mefi's primo source for these questions.
posted by krautland at 3:11 PM on June 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. I do have a very good knee brace that was ordered by the physical therapist that I saw, however, for some reason, knee braces make it worse. They really chafe the skin and make the muscles sore. I think I will try some Advil and ice packs, I forgot I had some icy-hot patches. It is very comforting to know that other people have experienced something similar... I hate to think that I am alone. I really appreciate the ideas/suggestions/input.
posted by ForeverDcember at 4:51 PM on June 23, 2008

It's possible that you might have another injury on top of the one you already had. The new onset of the "buckling" sensation makes me wonder if there's something new going on. Once you have insurance, you might try finding a physical therapist through here. These are people who have extensive experience in manual therapy, and top-notch diagnostic skills.
posted by jennyjenny at 5:49 PM on June 23, 2008

Just to add that wearing a knee brace a lot is not always good. For example, after sports injuries, some physios will say you should always wear a brace (for any physical activity), some say you should try to ween yourself off it as soon as possible.

As said above, ice helps. And I would give a mention to strengthening exercises, which helped a lot while I suffered from a recurring knee injury a few years ago. Basically making the muscles around the knee joint a bit stronger can help prevent the joint from getting so strained. The exercise where you prop a towel under your knee I found really useful, for example.
posted by theyexpectresults at 6:18 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

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