When Should Hip and Knee Pain be Evaluated?

23 March 2021

Our hips and knees can take a real beating over a lifetime. If you’re active, have a family history of arthritis, or are one of the many unlucky souls with an injury to these joints, chances are pretty high that you’ll feel aches, pains, and/or stiffness at some point.

If this sounds like you (or one of the 15 million other Americans struggling with achy, painful joints), your next question is likely going to be: “When should I see a doctor?”

This Joint is Jumpin’

“Active lifestyles in sports and athletic activities can put stress on our joints,” says Jeffrey Vakil, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon with Premier Orthopaedics in Chestnut Hill. Typically, high-impact activities like running and football, or repetitive jumping sports such as basketball, can cause knee and hip joints to wear out as we age.

“Having your hip or knee pain evaluated by a qualified specialist may be in your best interest,” Dr. Vakil says.

Fear not, though. If your running or football glory days are behind you, there are lower-impact options to stay fit and active. Walking, light aerobics, swimming, biking, hiking, treadmill and the elliptical are great alternatives to high-impact activities.

Chronic Pain Warriors

The great Jack Benny once said, “I don’t deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.”

Arthritis, or the wearing out of the protective surface called cartilage, is a chronic degenerative condition commonly found in the hips and knees. As we age, most cases of hip and knee pain are the direct result of osteoarthritis, which is one of the leading causes of disability in our country.

“People as young as in their forties can develop arthritis,” Dr. Vakil says, “but it’s typically seen in people 50 and above.” He explains that hip arthritis can feel like a “groin pull” with groin achiness and/or thigh discomfort typically ending at the knee. You may also experience achiness/pain in your buttock. Arthritis of the knee is typically localized to the area surrounding the knee itself, however, it can radiate up and down the leg. “Pain that is caused by arthritis of the hip or knee is often described as chronic, and dull like a toothache - but can also be sharp, stabbing or shooting,” Dr. Vakil says. “These symptoms typically get worse with walking, climbing stairs, standing, and donning shoes or socks. Sometimes, it can even adversely affect sleep.”

If your hip or knee pain is constant or slowly progressing, seek out the opinion of a healthcare professional. Your primary care provider is a great place to start. He or she may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon, a specialist trained in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.

Surgery is rarely a first-line treatment. There are many conservative options available that can be considered before recommending any invasive procedure.

Above all, remember this: When in doubt, check it out!

Jeffrey Vakil, M.D. is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in hips and knees. He is currently accepting new patients in his office located at 8815 Germantown Pike, Suite 14, in Philadelphia. Please call 484-768-9101 for an appointment or fill out a secure online appointment form.