Knee pain is a common medical problem for Americans of all ages. If you’re an athlete — pro, student, or casual — painful knees are even more common.
Most athletes are dedicated to their sports, which makes it all the more tempting to play through their pain, hoping that with a bit of time, the symptoms will go away on their own.
But deciding to play through knee pain can have some serious consequences. In this post, Dominique Nickson, MD, and the Next Step Orthopedics team explain three reasons it’s not a good idea to play through the pain.
#1: It could be a serious issue
Knee injuries are common, especially among athletes, and they become even more common as you get older. While many serious knee problems cause excruciating pain and an inability to use the knee normally, you should never assume your knee pain isn’t serious just because you can still use the joint.
Many serious knee problems, like ACL tears or meniscus tears, are accompanied by acute pain. But some serious knee problems are more subtle. Even if you don’t have severe pain or “snapping” sensations associated with tissue tears, it doesn’t mean the pain isn’t due to a serious problem.
#2: It could turn into a serious issue — quickly
Suppose your knee pain isn’t caused by a serious, acute problem like torn connective tissue. Is it OK to keep playing without seeing a doctor? No, because if you continue to play without having your pain medically evaluated, you run the risk of injuring your knee joint even more.
Many knee injuries destabilize the joint, which means your knee may give way or even fracture if you keep playing. Other knee pain can be related to degenerative conditions, like arthritis. Play through that pain, and you could increase the damage to the joint surface — and increase the likelihood you may need a knee replacement in the future.
#3: You might need a change in activity
Knee pain is a clear signal that something is not right with the knee joint or the structures that support it or depend on it. The good news is, by having Dr. Nickson evaluate your knee pain early on, he can recommend changes that can alleviate your symptoms and help reduce the risk of further injury.
Depending on what’s causing your pain, your age, your overall health, and other factors, he might suggest using specific warm-up exercises, undergoing physical therapy, reducing your playing time, or other ways to “play smart” and protect your knees. He also might recommend knee treatments, like corticosteroid injections, to give your knees additional support and care.
Find out what’s causing your knee pain
There are many issues that can cause knee pain, and the only way to know what’s behind your symptoms is to have an exam and evaluation. Dr. Nickson uses an array of diagnostic techniques, including X-rays, MRIs, and arthroscopy, to diagnose the cause of knee pain, so your treatment can be customized for optimal recovery.