If your knees hurt from time to time, you’re not alone. Knee pain and stiffness are two of the most common reasons people seek out an orthopedic surgeon. Knee pain can occur in any age group, from children and adolescents to adults and seniors. Often, knee pain gets better on its own or with conservative treatment at home. Sometimes, though, knee pain can signal a condition like an ACL or meniscus tear that requires treatment by a doctor. Learn about the most common causes of knee pain, some at-home treatments to try, and when to see a doctor for knee pain that won’t go away. Common Causes of Knee Pain The cause of your knee pain might depend on your age, weight, activity level, and other risk factors. Some of the most common knee pain causes are: Arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or osteoarthritis of the knee Baker’s cyst, which is a benign collection of fluid behind the knee joint Bursitis, which is inflammation of any of the lubricating sacs located around the knee joint Dislocated knee or kneecap Fractures Infection of the knee bones or joint Inflammation due to knee sprain or pulled muscle Osgood-Schlatter disease, which involves ‘growing pains’ caused by inflammation of the upper part of the shin bone in adolescents Overuse injuries from participating in sports, such as knee pain from running or repetitive crouching. Other activities that can cause knee pain when bending include gardening, teaching and caring for young children, nursing and home health work, and construction. Torn ligament or cartilage including ACL tear, MCL tear, and torn meniscus Wear and tear on the joint from being overweight Knee Pain Treatment at Home If you develop knee pain that was not caused by a knee injury (trauma), and there is no visible deformity of the knee joint, you can try treating it at home. To care for your knee pain at home: Apply ice to the top of the knee for 15 minutes at a time, alternating with 15 minutes of no ice. Be sure to place a towel or other barrier between your skin and the ice pack to avoid injuring your skin. Elevate the knee on cushions to reduce any minor swelling. You also can sleep with a pillow under your knees to see if it helps the pain. Rest the knee by avoiding any activities that cause pain including bearing weight. If you think the pain is from repetitive activity, try alternating your activities, such as swimming for a few weeks instead of running. Take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). Wear a compression sleeve for a few days to provide support to the knee joint. When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain Any time knee pain occurs as a result of trauma, such as a car accident or a sports injury, you should see a doctor to rule out structural joint damage as the cause of the pain. You also should consult a doctor if your knee pain persists, even off-and-on, for more than a couple of weeks. You should seek immediate medical attention or call 911 if your knee pain is accompanied by: Fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be a sign of infection Inability to bear any weight at all on the affected leg Inability to bend the knee voluntarily (never attempt to manipulate an injured knee with your hands) Numbness in the lower leg, foot or toes Redness and/or heat around the knee joint Sudden, severe swelling of the knee and lower leg Visible deformity of the knee joint or the lower leg Who to See for Knee Pain Trauma-related knee pain will be evaluated at first by an emergency room provider, who may then call on an orthopedic surgeon for diagnosis and treatment. If you have chronic knee pain that needs attention, you can start by visiting your primary care provider. Your doctor might refer you to an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist for further testing, diagnosis and treatment. You also can schedule an appointment directly with an orthopedist, but remember that some insurance companies require you to obtain a referral before seeing a specialist. Depending on the cause of your knee pain, you may also work with physical therapists, hydrotherapists, or other health professionals to get you back on your feet as soon as possible. Knee pain can be a nuisance that causes you to miss work or cut back on fitness activities. By seeking prompt medical attention for knee pain that persists longer than a week or two, you may be able to treat the condition with conservative measures that relieve the pain and get you back in action quickly.