Q. I am 57 and over the last three weeks I have had left knee pain, catching and swelling. I walk for exercise but do not remember hurting my knee. I have rested it and taken Ibuprofen with only a little improvement. It hurts most on the inside part of my knee when I am sitting with my knee bent and sometimes it feels like it might get stuck when I try to straighten it out. What is wrong and what can I do to get better?
A. I am concerned that you may have a meniscal cartilage tear in your knee. There are two meniscal cartilages in your knee, one on the inside (medial) and one on the outside (lateral). The meniscus is a shock absorber between the femur (thigh) and tibia (leg bone). Younger patients usually require significant trauma to tear the meniscus.
However, as we get older the meniscus can just tear and if the tear gets big enough, it can catch, hurt and swell. There are other causes of knee pain and swelling such as arthritis, loose bodies or a stress reaction from overuse. I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon for an exam, X-ray and likely an MRI scan. Depending upon the diagnosis you may require physical therapy, an injection or possibly arthroscopic surgery to get better.
Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital.