Understanding Your Pain

Knee Pain & injuries

Knee Pain

Four main bones make up your knee: the femur (the large bone in your thigh), the tibia, the fibula and the patella (or kneecap, as it's commonly referred to). When your knee moves, it doesn't simply bend and straighten, it also rotates. This rotation was discovered relatively recently (within the last 50 years) and speaks to how complex this seemingly simple joint really is. It also helps explain why you're more likely to injure your knee than any other joint in your body.

The quadriceps and hamstring muscles go across your knee joint, with the quadriceps on the front of the knee and the hamstrings on the back. Ligaments hold the joint together, and a C-shaped piece of tissue called meniscal cartilage helps to protect the joint and allows the bones to slide freely on each other. For your knee to function properly, your ligaments and cartilage must be smooth and strong. In fact, damage (strain/tear) or irritation to these knee components are responsible for the vast majority of knee problems.

It's estimated that nearly one in three Americans older than age 45 will experience some degree of knee pain. Typically, this pain is the result of an injury; however, arthritis and gout may also be to blame - especially as people get older.

When to Seek Help

If you're experiencing pain, feeling unstable, feeling the need to fully extend knee after sitting for prolonged periods, buckling, locking, shin pain, swelling, it's a good idea to speak with a board-certified physician—before the condition gets worse. If the pain and/or limited motion persists for more than three months, it's considered chronic and you should consult with a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) specialist right away.

  • Anterior knee pain – pain at the front of the knee (ACL Injury)
  • Posterior knee pain – pain at the back of the knee
  • Lateral and medial knee pain – pain at the side of the knee
  • Knee pain resulting from poor hip core

Before discussing your symptoms with a doctor, it may be helpful to review some common conditions.

Why Should I See a Physiatrist?

Physiatrists are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal pain and injury because it's the focus of their education and training. Physiatrists complete four years of medical school, plus an additional four years of residency training, and many go on to complete fellowships in various specialties. In order to become a board-certified physiatrist, physicians must then pass comprehensive tests (oral and written) administered by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPM&R) or the American Osteopathic Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AOBPM&R). Physiatrists will assess your condition, needs and expectations thoroughly and develop a tailor-made treatment regimen.

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TOP 10 REASONS to Visit a Physiatrist

  • 1. Physiatry is a medical specialty
  • 2. Physiatrists are medical doctors (M.D.s and D.O.s)
  • 3. Physiatrists treat the whole person, not just a condition
  • 4. Physiatrists use the latest treatments and modalities
  • 5. No problem is ever too small or too big for a physiatrist
  • 6. Physiatry treatment is highly individualized to meet the specific needs of the patient
  • 7. Physiatry can often help people avoid surgery
  • 8. The physiatrist's job is restore as much function and independence as possible—to put the pieces of people's lives back together
  • 9. The physiatrist works with a team of health care professionals that includes physicians of other medical specialties, and therapists
  • 10. Physiatrists can help with acute and chronic pain management issues