I get asked frequently how to whether a knee injury is serious or not. While a complete history, thorough examination and imaging studies such as xray and/or MRI of the injured knee are the best way to arrive at the diagnosis, there are a few signs and symptoms that a lay person can look for to assess for injury severity and whether immediate medical care is necessary.
A significantly swollen knee, especially if it occurs immediately after an injury, is concerning for a serious injury such as a fracture, torn ligament or meniscus. Inability to put weight on the affected leg is likewise worrisome. A “pop” felt or heard suggests a torn ligament, as does side-to-side instability. Painful clicking or locking frequently occurs with a torn meniscus, and a deep internal pain when walking usually reflects either a meniscal and /or ligamentous injury.
As with any serious joint injury, do not try to “walk it off.” Get some crutches or assistance from a bystander and ice and/or wrap the knee promptly. Finally, elevate it while being transported to your physician’s office or local urgent care. To schedule an appointment, contact our office at 208-772-5204.
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