When it comes to knee injuries, there’s no bigger warning sign of a serious knee injury than losing the ability to bear weight on the joint. Whether pain is preventing you from using your knee or you have instability, it’s time that you seek professional help.
At William Schell, MD, Dr. Schell is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine/arthroscopy specialist who has extensive experience with knee injuries.
Here, we take a look at what might be behind your inability to bear weight on your knee and why intervention is critical.
When you injure your knee
When you first injure your knee, whether you’re fielding a ball on the courts or you step badly off a curb, you need to apply the RICE method as soon as possible. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
If you apply the RICE method right away, you can often limit swelling and further damage to your knee.
If you can’t bear weight on your knee in the first hours after your injury, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a serious injury. If, however, you can’t bear weight on it the next day, and after applying the RICE method, there is cause for concern.
Knee injuries that can lead to mobility issues
If you find that you can’t bear weight on your knee because of pain or instability, there are several potential culprits, including:
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
Each year in the United States, between 100,000 and 200,000 people sprain or tear their ACLs. Your ACL is a stabilizing ligament in your knee that controls backward and forward movement in your knee, and it keeps your tibia (shinbone) from moving in front of your femur (thighbone).
A complete tear of your ACL isn’t an injury that heals on its own, and it can leave you with limited movement and stability in your knee.
Posterior cruciate ligament tear
Providing a counterpoint to your ACL is your posterior cruciate ligament, which prevents your shinbone from sliding behind your femur. This ligament is stronger than your ACL, and tears are far more infrequent. That said, a tear in this tissue can lead to difficulty walking.
Each of your knees has a pair of wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as shock absorbers inside the joint. If you tear this tissue, you may experience pain, especially when you rotate your knee. As well, a meniscus tear can lead to the feeling that your knee is locking or that it’s going in the opposite direction and may give way.
If your kneecap (patella) slides out of place, it can lead to swelling and pain in your knee. You also may be unable to straighten your knee. Knee dislocations can cause damage in your joint, so it’s important that we treat the dislocation as quickly as possible.
There are other injuries that can lead to the inability to bear weight, such as fractures and tendon tears, but the above represent the most common issues.
Treating non-weight-bearing knee injuries
If the fact that you’re hobbled by a knee injury isn’t enough to get you to seek help, the idea that the problem might only get worse should.
We specialize in diagnosing and treating knee injuries so you can not only regain the ability to bear weight on your knee, you can also avoid bigger problems down the road.
It would be hard to say here what your treatment would look like without first diagnosing the problem, but we offer options that range from physical therapy to surgery. Rest assured, our goal is the same as yours — to get you back on your feet and moving freely.
If you’re unable to bear weight on your knee, please contact our New York City office on the Upper West Side on Columbus Circle, to schedule an appointment.