Who to see for my knee pain?
Now that healthcare costs are so expensive, we are all taking an interest into finding out who to see for our knee pain. Should I see an orthopedic doctor, my primary doctor or a physical therapist for knee aches?
To help you strategize I formulated a Knee Impact Quiz to help guide. You can take this simple 8 question quiz here.
Let’s dive even deeper into my personal perspective.
(Please recognize I cannot give specific medical advice to your situation without directly assessing you and knowing your details. This is meant as an ultimate guide to who to see for knee pain.)
There are some aspects of symptoms known as “red flags” that healthcare professionals and your doctor screen for to rule out any of the “big scary” medical conditions. These are things such as does your pain stay the same 100% of the time with no variance? If there is nothing that changes ever, I suggest seeing your primary care doctor. Your physician can ask some further questions and see if there is any further testing or investigation needed.
Your primary physician is also who can order an xray and MRI if warranted.
Imaging is often not necessary for many conditions and even a physical therapist can perform hands-on tests and determine if imaging may be needed. I personally have referred clients back to their physician when symptoms showed an MRI was needed. In the military setting where I once worked I was able to order imaging myself, but it truly isn’t needed in most cases.
So to summarize:
A primary physician or family doctor is very helpful for clearing any of the sinister “big scary” conditions out and guiding you to what you need. Very often that means physical therapy.
Want to save a little time and money?
Consult with a Physical Therapist first. You don’t need a physician referral in Ohio.
What does a Physical Therapist do?
A Physical Therapist is the expert for all muscle, tendon, ligament and joint conditions. Many conditions that are helped are not new injuries, often they are the annoying aches and pains. You may often associate these aches with “getting older.” However, you don’t have to ache and it’s not simply a matter of getting older.
Physical therapists test strength and movement patterns looking for symmetry and where imbalances may be. When something is out of balance, another muscle or joint takes over the workload “to simply get it done.” Over time the muscle or joint taking on a larger workload gets tired, tense or painful and starts to “slow you down.”
Athletity is known for strategy sessions. These sessions are the times where the true cause of your symptoms are determined. Anyone can treat the aches. You may find it feels better for the afternoon, a few days or even a couple weeks.
But why does my pain come back?
Your pain is coming back because the true source of your pain wasn’t worked on or resolved. A trigger point can be released but it will tense back up if the reason why it became tense wasn’t found and resolved.
Do you need specific guidance for your situation? I personally offer Wellness Strategy Sessions online where we can strategize who to see and the likelihood of you needing imaging or not.
Ok, so now you get what a Physical Therapist can offer.
How do I know if I need an injection for my knee?
Injections into the knee joint are typically to reduce pain and/or inflammation. Before you consider having a big needle poked into your joint (ouch!) please ask a few questions:
1. What is the success rate for this injection? According to the research, not personal opinion.
2. Is there any long-term effect on my tissues from this medication?
3. Can getting this injection put me at a greater risk for injury or future issues?
Please be aware cortisone shots are very popular. There isn’t a lot of favorable research backing these. You want to know what you’re signing up for. What you’re paying for. And most importantly if it can cause you more issues down the road that you didn’t know about.
PRP (plasma rich platelet) shots are another common injection performed, especially for the knee. Overall the research verdict is still out. They tend to be a pricey treatment option. You may save money trying alternative methods first. Don’t ever hesitate to ask you provider what all the options are.
When would I need to see an Orthopedist?
Primarily if you need to see surgery. An Orthopedist is a surgeon, if you want surgery, that's what they do. When I worked in the military setting the Orthopedic doctors did not want to see anyone who the Physical Therapist didn't feel would need surgery. If there was a conservative approach, the PT was who delivered it. Minus injections. Honestly though there isn't a lot of great research out there about the success level of injections.
Surgical options can vary. Ask about the research. There are some common knee surgeries that recently have been proven to provide no more relief than a placebo surgery. No one deserves to be put under and poked at if the results are there to back it up.
What can I do to ease knee pain without taking medication?
Physical Therapy is one of the best methods to ease knee pain without medication because you are addressing the true cause of symptoms.
Not all physical therapy clinics are equal though. Have you ever had a contractor work on something at your house? I hope they did a good job. Some are great, but some you just want the work to be finished and over with because it’s not a good experience. Physical Therapy is not any different. As with any profession, there are great places and uh…less desirable places.
How do I pick a Physical Therapist?
Finding someone you trust always makes the difference.
Can you talk to the physical therapist on the phone before your appointment for a few minutes? A select few places allow this. Athletity does.
Does the person have a social media presence where you can find videos, helpful information or even something on YouTube? This may help you decide if the person’s personality mixes with yours and is someone you want to work with. You can find Athletity on Facebook, IG and YouTube.
It’s your choice. You don’t have to be “assigned” someone. You want to directly work with the same person each visit to maximize your time and your results. When you are shifted between aides and assistants there is no assessment going on throughout your visit. A Physical Therapist is constantly assessing, changing and modifying your program to fit your precise needs that day.
Do you follow the same routine or exercises every single visit? You shouldn’t. With the constant assessment it should be continually changed for you. This is what gets you faster results without it taking months and a dozen or more appointments.
You want someone who cares about you as a person. You’re not the “10 o’clock knee patient.” You are ________ with goals, dreams and want a strategy to help you live life fully.
I left the standard high volume, how many people can we get through the door today, type clinic. Athletity was founded on the philosophy that you matter, your story matters and getting you true, long lasting results to live life fully is my mission.
Want to share your story? I would love to hear it. Let’s set up a time to sit and chat or shoot me an email @ firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m (im)patiently waiting. 😊