Could Your Knee Pain Be Arthritis? 3 Questions to Ask

In honor of Arthritis Awareness Month, we asked Dominic King , DO, sports medicine and interventional orthopedic physician at the Cleveland Clinic; and Julius Oni , MD, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine for their insights on common aches and pains.

Related: Can Stress Cause Arthritis? Expert Answers to 6 Common Questions

Think your knee pain could be arthritis? Your orthopedist may ask the following questions to get to the root of your pain, King says:

Did you feel a “pop” in your knee?

That sound is common in twisting injuries, and could signal a torn meniscus (tough, shock-absorbing cartilage inside your knee) or a torn ligament.

Did the pain come on gradually?

Cartilage breakdown – namely osteoarthritis (OA) – could be to blame.

Does it hurt when you press on it?

Tendon injuries hurt to the touch at the top of the kneecap and the bottom of the kneecap.

No matter the cause, treatment usually involves anti-inflammatory meds, bracing, physical therapy, injections, surgery or some combination thereof.

What causes low-back pain?

If your back hurts when you press on it, think muscle strain. If the pain is deeper, intermittent, and came on slowly, you may have arthritis.

Other culprits:

•A herniated disc, sometimes marked by leg numbness and tingling, means one of the gel-filled cushions between your vertebrae ruptured.

•Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column, can cause achy cramps when you walk.

•If the pain is very low in your back—more like upper buttock pain—chances are your sacroiliac joint is to blame.

“The first thing that knocks out a good amount of back pain: stretching and physical therapy,” King says.

When is hip pain serious?

Pain on the outside of your hip is usually related to tendon, ligament or muscle injuries. But groin or inner hip pain usually suggests OA, which is progressive. Your doctor may recommend a range of non-surgical options: weight loss, aquatic exercise or physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, or steroid injections.

How will you know if it’s time for hip replacement surgery? Oni tells his patients: “When you start having more bad days than good.”

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