Your knee is a vital joint that supports much of your weight. Most of the time, you don’t usually need to give your knees a second thought. However, the constant pressure on the knees makes them vulnerable to disease and injury, causing varying degrees of pain or decreased functionality.
Although knee pain comes in many forms, there’s a critical distinction between acute and chronic knee pain. It’s essential to know the difference since it can affect the arc of your treatment and recovery.
Acute Knee Pain
Acute knee pain is usually caused by a sports injury, fall, or other sudden physical trauma that damages the structures in the joint. Acute knee pain is sharp, but the symptoms usually fade after a few days. One of the most common and dreaded knee injuries is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, which is often caused by overextending the joint or pivoting directions too quickly.
If you sustain a minor sports injury, it can usually be treated using the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You can buy over-the-counter pain medications to decrease swelling or consider a brace for added stability.
Physical therapy can help repair damage caused by an injury through non-drug methods like massage, electrical stimulation, and physical training.
With acute knee pain, gradually ease back into your usual activity level to prevent muscle stiffness from setting in. Getting enough exercise increases blood flow and circulation that speeds up the healing process.
Most cases of acute knee pain can be safely treated at home, but schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing warning signs of a potential infection. These may include the following:
- Significant swelling
- Tenderness and warmth around the affected area
- Fever and chills
- Increasing pain
Chronic Knee Pain
Unlike acute pain that can subside quickly, chronic pain lasts longer than 6 months. It is usually caused by improper healing from a previous injury or an underlying disease like osteoarthritis. Arthritis damages the cartilage cushioning your joints, causing severe pain that can interfere with sleep, work, and life.
You may experience other symptoms due to the prolonged nature of the pain, such as the following:
- Impaired mobility
- Lack of energy
- Change in appetite
- Psychological distress
It’s best to visit an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible. They can evaluate your condition, provide an accurate diagnosis, and craft a personalized treatment plan to relieve and address chronic pain.
Your doctor might recommend lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise. Adults with arthritis should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly. Try low-impact exercises like walking and yoga that do not put your joints under extreme strain.
Treatments for Acute and Chronic Knee Pain
Whether your condition is acute or chronic, physical therapy will be an essential component of your rehabilitation plan. Your physical therapist will guide you through specific exercises designed to strengthen the joint and restore its range of motion. You will also learn proper body mechanics to help you move in a way that reduces pressure on your knees and increases strength over time.
You can also consider injection treatments to help relieve your pain. Corticosteroid shots can provide short to medium-term pain relief. In a viscosupplementation treatment, your doctor injects a lubricant that can help reduce friction during movement.
When you don’t respond well to conservative treatments, your doctor might recommend surgery. Depending on the severity of the joint damage, your doctor may perform a partial or total joint replacement that involves replacing the diseased part of the knee with a prosthetic.
Knee Doctor in Watertown, NY
Whether it’s acute or chronic, knee pain can interfere with your day-to-day life and keep you from the activities you love. If you sustain a knee injury or suffer persistent pain, visit North County Orthopaedic Group at Watertown, New York, for comprehensive diagnosis and treatment.
Our multi-specialty team has been providing non-operative care and orthopedic surgery in North Country since 1959. To treat acute knee pain, our providers may recommend RICE and physical therapy. For chronic knee pain, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons may prescribe injection therapies. We can also repair severe joint damage through minimally invasive surgical treatments.
Call us at (315) 782-1650 or fill out our online appointment request form to schedule a consultation. Let us help you live a pain-free life!