The knee is the largest joint in the body, and we subject it to a lot of wear and tear. We run marathons, take jump shots on hard concrete, kneel when we weed the garden and climb ladders to repair the roof. It’s no wonder, according to the Mayo Clinic, that knee pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the emergency room.
When to Go
Generally, if your knee pain comes on suddenly and is so debilitating that you can’t walk, you should go to the hospital. Health.msn.com reports that knee injuries most frequently occur when we’re participating in sports and other recreational activities or when we’re doing work- or home-related physical tasks. Whether your knee pain is the result getting slammed on the football field or falling on the dance floor, The National Institutes of Health says if you experience any of the following you could have a serious injury such as a torn ligament or dislocation and should seek medical attention: You can’t put any weight on your knee. You have severe pain even when you’re not bearing down on your knee. Your knee is very swollen. Your knee buckles, clicks or locks. Your knee is misshapen. You have a fever. Your knee is red or warm to the touch. Your calf below the sore knee is painful, swollen, numb, tingling or turning blue.
In the Meantime
When you’re in severe pain, the drive from your house to the emergency room can be the longest trip of your life. To make the journey more bearable, have someone else drive you so you can keep your leg immobile. Take over-the-counter pain medication to help relieve the pain and reduce swelling. The Mayo Clinic recommends applying a cold pack to the injured knee. The clinic says a bag of frozen peas works particularly well because it covers the entire knee. The clinic also stresses the pack shouldn’t be applied for longer than 20 minutes. Leave it on longer and the extreme cold could damage your nerves and skin.
Be prepared to undergo some tests once you get to the hospital. According to the NIH, your doctor may want to take some fluid from your knee and examine it under a microscope for signs of infection. He may also order an X-ray to get a better look at the ligaments, tendons and muscles of your knee. You may also have to undergo an MRI so your doctor can see if there’s any soft tissue damage.