health articles

Knee Pain

Knee pain is a common problem in people of all ages. It can develop as the result of an accident or injury, such as a cartilage tear or ligament sprain. Knee pain can also develop due to infection or chronic conditions, including osteoarthritis and gout.


Causes of knee pain

Knee pain can be caused by injury, infection and several medical conditions.

Effects of knee pain

Knee pain can be uncomfortable and can make it difficult to work, exercise and get around. If your knee pain affects your mobility and quality of life, the experienced doctors at Virtually Healthcare can provide advice, investigation and treatment to reduce pain and restore movement.

Knee pain following injury:

  • Sprains and strains: Pain following exercise, overuse or a twisting injury.
  • Tendonitis: Pain typically below the knee caused by repetitive injury such as running, dancing or jumping.
  • Torn ligament or cartilage: Knee swelling, pain and instability. The knee may be unstable and give way.
  • Osgood-Schlatter’s disease: A condition which causes pain and swelling under the knee cap, particularly in active, sporty children.

Knee pain without injury

  • Osteoarthritis: Knee pain, swelling and stiffness that develops gradually and gets worse over time.
  • Bursitis: Pain together with a warm red swelling that’s made worse by kneeling and bending.
  • Septic arthritis: Hot, painful swollen knee.
  • Gout: Recurrent episode of knee pain, swelling and stiffness.

Symptoms of knee pain

The main symptom is, of course, pain – but knee pain can be associated with many other problems. These include:

  • Knee swelling and stiffness
  • Knee weakness, instability and giving way.
  • Warmth and redness in the knee
  • Popping, creaking or cracking noises
  • Inability to straighten or bend the knee fully
  • Knee deformity

Knee pain management at Virtually Healthcare

Virtually Healthcare is an innovative GP practice, providing expert care in the comfort, safety and privacy of your home. The Virtually Healthcare service is designed to fit with modern lives. Consultations are easy to access, discreet and convenient with virtual appointments available seven days a week.

The highly-skilled team includes more than 40 clinicians working together to investigate and treat disease and help you optimise your health and wellbeing. As well as GPs, the team includes physiotherapists, practice nurses and sexual health specialists to offer a comprehensive primary care service.

During the pandemic, many patients are finding it more difficult to access Healthcare. Virtually Healthcare provides rapid access video or telephone appointments; with consultations available the same day if you contact us before 3 pm. Our clinicians can provide professional assessment and advice, arrange investigations, prescribe treatment or arrange for a face-to-face review.

At Virtually Healthcare, our focus is on you. Our patients can make an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists without a GP referral. The physios can arrange scans and tests. They will work with a Virtually doctor to arrange that a prescription is sent directly to your local pharmacy.

How to help yourself with knee pain

Many causes of knee pain can be eased with self-help measures. Physiotherapy, knee supports and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can also help manage minor knee injuries and arthritis.

  • Rest: If you have injured your knee, try and rest the joint by putting as little weight as possible on your leg,
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack, or a bag of frozen peas (wrapped in a cloth to protect the skin) on the knee for around 20 minutes to ease swelling.
  • Pain relief: Take regular paracetamol or over-the-counter anti-inflammatories (if you can tolerate them.)
  • Weight management: If you have knee osteoarthritis, getting to a healthy weight can reduce the strain on your joints.
  • Movement modification: If sports are triggering pain, then changing technique, running on softer surfaces, wearing orthotic supports or braces, and investing in better footwear can prevent pain and injury.

Physiotherapy for knee pain

Virtually Healthcare has two physiotherapists as part of our multi-disciplinary team. Your time is valuable. Physiotherapists are specialists in treating muscle, bone and joint conditions, making them the best professionals to assess and treat your knee, unless you have suffered an injury.

You can book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists without the need for a GP referral. They have extensive experience and expertise in the evaluation and treatment of knee pain. They will:

  • Take a history of your pain and examine your knee to assess the cause of your problem.
  • Arrange a scan or other investigations.
  • Work with our GPs to prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication.
  • PRICE: They may recommend Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. They can provide crutches or knee support if needed.
  • As your range of movement increases and your pain settles, your physiotherapist will advance your exercises, working on your strength and balance, ensuring that you get back to full fitness.
  • Controlled exercise: The physiotherapist will recommend an exercise programme to build movement, strength and balance. The intensity of the programme will increase as your pain settles.
  • If your pain isn’t settling or they are concerned about trauma or infection, they will arrange for your knee to be reviewed by one of our doctors.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with one of the doctors at Virtually Healthcare if your knee is significantly affecting your mobility and quality of life. It’s particularly important to seek expert assessment and advice if you can’t put weight on your knee, the knee is hot, red and swollen, you feel feverish or generally unwell, you’ve noticed a deformity, or your knee is unstable and giving way.

Investigation and treatment of knee pain

Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and suggest investigation and treatment based on their expert assessment. This could include:

  • Self-care and lifestyle advice.
  • Pain relief or anti-inflammatories.
  • Referral for physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles and improve movement and flexibility.
  • Knee supports or braces to stabilise the knee.
  • Referral to hospital for MRI scanning.
  • Referral to a hospital orthopaedic team for specialist investigation and treatment such as steroid injection, knee arthroscopy or knee replacement.
Hot topics in knee pain

Runner’s knee

The government’s recommendation to exercise daily together with limits to other activities has meant we see many more sports injuries in our clinics. Knee pain is one of the most common problems we treat in joggers and runners. Runner’s knee is a group of problems affecting the structures in and around the knee joint; medically, it is often known as patellofemoral pain syndrome.

What are the symptoms of runner’s knee?

People suffering from runner’s knee can experience:

  • Pain while running: The pain is usually dull but can be severe. It is generally towards the front of the knee, all around the knee, or behind the kneecap.
  • Pain on bending or squatting.
  • Pain walking downhill or downstairs
  • Swelling at the front of the knee.
  • Knee popping or grinding.

What causes runner’s knee?

Overuse injuries usually cause runner’s knee. It’s made worse by unsupportive footwear and not warming up. You’re more at risk if you have hypermobility, weak or unbalanced thigh muscles or a condition called chondromalacia patella, in which the cartilage under the kneecap degenerates.

What to do if you have runner’s knee.

If you have knee pain:

  • Rest, stop running until your pain eases.
  • Gently stretch by lying on your side and pulling your heel to your bottom.
  • Apply ice- try frozen peas or an icepack wrapped in a tea towel to protect your skin.
  • If the pain’s severe or the knee’s swollen, see a GP straight away.
  • If your knee pain is severe or swollen, make an appointment with a physio at Virtually Healthcare.

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Types of consultations we offer

We offer written, telephone and video consultations with a range of male and female clinicians from GPs, nurse practitioners, and primary care specialists such as physiotherapy.