What Doctor Should I See for My Knee Pain?
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
January 14, 2023

Knee pain is common and can arise from many causes. When the pain does not go away or worsens, your body is telling you that something is not quite right.

If your knee pain is not properly diagnosed and appropriate treatment is not started, more serious and long-term consequences can result.

For these reasons, it’s important to know when and what doctor to see for knee pain.

If you’re experiencing any type of discomfort in the area around your knees, then it’s time to look into what could be causing this issue.

Knowing common causes of knee pain, how serious the symptoms are, and when you should see a specialist is key to understanding how best to treat it.

In this article, we’ll explore diagnosis options as well as provide tips on when you need extra help from a professional so that you can take back control over your own health!

Common Causes of Knee Pain

Knee pain is a common complaint among adults of all ages. It can be caused by a variety of conditions, including arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, iliotibial band syndrome, and meniscus or ACL tears (anterior cruciate ligament), and a decreased quality of life.

Understanding the causes of knee pain can help you get the right diagnosis and treatment for your condition.


Arthritis is one of the most common causes of knee pain in older adults over age 50.

Knee osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between joints wears away due to aging or injury.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects multiple joints throughout the body, including the knees.

Symptoms include swelling, stiffness, and tenderness around affected joints.

Treatment typically includes medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.


Tendonitis is another cause of knee pain that results from inflammation of the tendons surrounding the joint.

Common causes include repetitive motions such as running or jumping activities; overuse injuries; or direct trauma to the area such as a fall on hard ground or stairs.

Symptoms may include swelling around affected tendons and difficulty moving without discomfort or sharp pains during movement attempts .

Treatments vary depending on severity but may involve rest, physical therapy exercises to strengthen muscles around affected areas, icing after activity, NSAIDs for symptom relief, bracing for support, and steroid injections if needed.

Knee Bursitis

Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs located near major joints like those found in your knees which act as cushions between bones and soft tissues like skin muscle ligaments etc.

When these become inflamed it’s called bursitis which can lead to severe joint pain, especially with movements involving bending kneeling squatting, etc.

Treatment usually involves resting avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms applying heat/cold compresses taking NSAIDs if necessary using braces/orthotics doing physical therapy exercises stretching strengthening improving posture wearing comfortable shoes etc.

Meniscus tears occur when there is damage done to the cartilage within your knee joint, causing intense localized pain, swelling, locking sensation, clicking noises while walking, and instability.

Diagnosis usually requires imaging tests like X-rays or MRI scans as well as arthroscopy surgery if needed.

Common causes of knee pain include overuse, trauma, and age-related wear and tear or degenerative conditions.

Knowing the cause of your knee pain can help you determine what type of doctor to see for further diagnosis and treatment.

Key Takeaway: Knee pain can be caused by arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis or meniscus tears. Treatment may include rest, medications, physical therapy exercises and in some cases surgery.

Knee Pain Diagnosis

It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis in order to determine the best treatment plan.

When it comes to diagnosing knee pain, the first step is usually visiting your primary care doctor or family doctor.

They will ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, as well as perform a physical exam of your knee joint.

This may include checking for swelling, tenderness, range of motion, and any signs of instability or deformity.

Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to look for any structural damage in the bones or soft tissues around the knee joint.

These tests can help identify issues like fractures, arthritis, torn ligaments and tendons, bursitis (inflammation of fluid-filled sacs), cartilage tears (meniscus tear), bone spurs (osteophytes) and other problems that could be causing your pain.

In some cases where there are no obvious signs on imaging tests but you still have persistent knee pain with no known cause after several weeks of conservative treatments like rest and medications have been tried without success, referral to an orthopedic knee specialist might be necessary for further evaluation and management options such as injections or surgery if indicated.

If you experience sudden onset severe pain with swelling in one leg accompanied by fever, it is important to seek medical attention right away.

This could indicate an infection that requires prompt treatment with antibiotics before more serious complications occur from the spread of infection into deeper structures around the joint area including blood vessels leading up towards the heart and lungs.

The key takeaway here is that getting an accurate diagnosis is essential when it comes to treating knee pain effectively, so don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed.

If you experience persistent knee pain, it is important to seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider in order to get an accurate diagnosis.

Once you have received your diagnosis, the next step is understanding when to see a knee doctor for further treatment.

Key Takeaway: Seek professional help for knee pain if needed. Diagnosis may include physical exam, imaging tests, and referral to an orthopedic specialist.

When to See a Knee Specialist

Knee pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury, overuse, and medical conditions.

When knee pain persists or worsens despite treatment at home or with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, it may be time to see a specialist.

If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your knee pain, you should seek help from a specialist:

• Severe swelling that does not improve after 48 hours

• Pain that is worse when standing or walking

• Redness around the joint area

• Unusual warmth in the affected area

• Difficulty bending or straightening your leg completely

• Unexplained fever

In addition to these signs and symptoms of an underlying condition such as arthritis or infection, other indicators that you need to visit a doctor include:

  • If your knee gives out without warning
  • If there is instability in the joint
  • If there is persistent locking of the knee; if clicking noises are heard when moving it
  • And/or if numbness occurs in certain areas around the joint

It is also important to get checked out for possible fractures even if there isn’t severe pain associated with them.

A doctor will be able to determine whether further imaging tests such as X-rays are necessary

A physical therapist can also provide guidance on exercises designed specifically for strengthening weak muscles surrounding the knees, which can help reduce inflammation and discomfort.

If surgery is needed due to an injury or degenerative disease process, they will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in treating problems related to bones and joints like knees.

In some cases, medication might be prescribed depending on what type of condition has been diagnosed; always follow up with their advice accordingly.

If your knee pain persists or worsens despite at-home treatments, it’s important to see a specialist to determine the best course of action for you.

Next, let’s explore some potential treatment options for knee pain.

Key Takeaway: If you experience severe swelling, pain that is worse when standing or walking, redness around the joint area, warmth in the affected area, difficulty bending your leg completely, unexplained fever or other signs of an underlying condition such as instability in the joint or locking of the knee – it’s time to see a doctor. They may refer you to a physical therapist and/or orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation and treatment.

Treating Knee Pain

Fortunately, there are several treatments available to help relieve the discomfort and improve mobility.


Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce inflammation and provide relief from knee pain.

Prescription medications may also be prescribed for more severe cases of knee pain.

These include corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which block certain enzymes that cause inflammation in the body.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the muscles around your knees and improve the range of motion in the joint.

This will help reduce stress on your joints and decrease pain levels over time.

Your physical therapist may also recommend other therapies such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation to further reduce swelling and discomfort in your knees.

Lifestyle Changes

Making lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding activities that put strain on your knees, wearing supportive shoes with good arch support, using assistive devices like crutches when needed, and stretching regularly before exercise or activity can all contribute to reducing knee pain over time.

Additionally, maintaining an overall healthy diet rich in vitamins A & C helps keep cartilage strong while providing essential nutrients for healing damaged tissue around the joint area.


In some cases where conservative treatments have not been successful at relieving knee pain, surgery may be recommended by a doctor or specialist if necessary.

Surgery options vary depending on what type of injury has occurred but could include arthroscopic procedures to repair torn ligaments/tendons, realignment surgeries to correct misalignment issues, total joint replacement surgeries, etc.

Resting your legs whenever possible is important when dealing with any kind of knee injury or chronic condition.

Applying an ice pack wrapped in cloth directly onto the affected area for 15 minutes every few hours throughout the day can also help reduce swelling.

Heat therapy through hot baths, heating pads, and warm compresses should only be used after 48 hours following an acute injury since heat increases blood flow which could make swelling worse initially.

Stretching exercises specifically designed for strengthening weakened muscles around the affected area are another way you can manage symptoms at home without needing medical intervention.

Key Takeaway: To manage knee pain, medications, physical therapy exercises, lifestyle changes and in some cases surgery may be recommended. Home remedies such as resting the legs and applying iceheat packs can also help reduce symptoms.

FAQs in Relation to What Doctor to See for Knee Pain

What is the best doctor to see for knee pain?

The best doctor to see for knee pain depends on the severity and cause of the pain. Generally, a primary care physician or orthopedic specialist can diagnose and treat most types of knee pain.

If the issue is related to an underlying medical condition, such as arthritis or gout, then a rheumatologist may be more appropriate.

A physical therapist can also help with managing chronic knee pain through exercise and other treatments.

Ultimately, it’s important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor in order to determine which type of specialist is best suited for you.

What is a doctor for the knee called?

A doctor who specializes in treating knee injuries and conditions is called an orthopedic doctor or orthopedic surgeon.

Orthopedic surgeons are highly trained medical professionals who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and managing musculoskeletal issues related to the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.

They use a variety of treatments such as medications, physical therapy, or surgery to treat their patients’ knee-related problems.

Depending on the severity of the injury or condition they may also recommend lifestyle changes such as exercise programs or weight loss plans to help improve overall health.

When should I see an orthopedic for knee pain?

If you are experiencing knee pain that persists for more than a few days, it is important to seek medical attention from an orthopedic specialist.

Orthopedists specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

An orthopedist can assess your condition and provide treatment options such as medications or physical therapy to help reduce your pain and improve mobility.

If necessary, they may also recommend surgery to correct any underlying issues causing the pain.

It is important to get evaluated by an orthopedic specialist if you have persistent knee pain so that proper diagnosis and treatment can be provided.

How do I know if my knee pain is serious?

Knee pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury, arthritis, or overuse.

It is important to determine the cause of your knee pain in order to decide if it is serious and requires medical attention.

If you experience sudden swelling, intense pain that does not improve with rest or over-the-counter medications, redness around the joint area, fever or chills, difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected leg – these could all be signs of a more serious condition such as infection or fracture and should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.

Other symptoms such as stiffness after sitting for long periods of time may indicate early stages of arthritis and require further evaluation from your healthcare provider.


It is important to understand the common causes of knee pain, be aware of the symptoms, and know when it’s time to see a doctor.

If you are experiencing any type of knee pain, it is best to consult with your primary care physician or a knee specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Knowing which doctor to see for knee pain can help ensure that you get the right care and have the best outcome possible.

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