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Is it Time to See a Specialist for that Knee Pain?

LVPG Orthopedic Experts Give a Rundown on Surgery, Treatments and more


Knee pain can be many things – debilitating, limiting, life-disrupting – but there’s one thing it’s not: something you’re forced to live with. But when do you need the help of an expert?

“Not all knee pain is serious, but some knee injuries and conditions, such as osteoarthritis, can lead to increasing pain, joint damage and disability if left untreated,” says orthopedic surgeon Steven Puccio, DO, with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine–Health & Wellness Center in Hazle Township. “And if you’ve had a knee injury – even a minor one – you’re more likely to have similar injuries in the future.”

Types of knee pain

“Knee pain can present itself suddenly during a physical activity or accident or become worse over time,” says orthopedic surgeon Karl Helmold, MD, with LVPG Orthopedics–Schuylkill Manor Road. Knee pain is usually classified in two ways:

Acute: sudden knee pain

“In this situation, there is usually some type of physical injury,” Helmold says. “For example, a ligament sprain, muscle tear, fracture or cartilage injury.”

Chronic: constant, prolonged pain

“Chronic knee pain associated with activity in older individuals is often a result of wear and tear in the joint,” Helmold says. “This results in arthritis from cartilage degeneration and tears. Other causes are tendonitis and bursitis.”

When to see a specialist

Before you make an appointment, try easing the pain through “conservative measures.”

“Normal conservative measures, such as anti-inflammatory medications, rest and ice, should provide relief. However, if you still have knee pain after seven to 10 days of conservative care, then it’s time to seek the attention of an orthopedic specialist,” Puccio says.

What comes next?

X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered to help understand the source of pain. Using that information, plus your description of the pain, your specialist can make recommendations.

“If people fail home remedies after two weeks, I instruct them to begin a course of physical therapy lasting four to six weeks that helps restore their gait (walking) patterns,” Puccio says.

After multiple measures have been taken, only then is surgery a possibility. “Surgery is indicated when all conservative measures have failed,” Helmold says. “But we will do everything we can to help you remain active without it.”

Hold the scalpel

Here are some non-surgical knee pain treatments:

  • Rest and ice

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

  • Cortisone injections

  • Physical therapy

Health tip: Is knee pain making daily activities difficult? Take our assessment at LVHN.org/hyjointpain.