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How can I tell if I need to see a doctor for knee pain, and what kind of doctor should I see?

I am an avid runner, and somewhere along the way my knee started hurting, I am guessing from overuse as I cannot remember doing anything specific to injure it. How do I tell if it's serious enough to see a doctor? It hurts to exercise, but doesn't seem to be swollen or distorted, and doesn't hurt to the touch. I also have full range of motion, but a nagging pain that has slowly gotten worse over the past few weeks. If I should see a doctor, what type is best?
It sounds like your knee pain is probably affecting your quality of life. For these reasons you should probably consider seeing a doctor soon. It is difficult to tell from your description what might be causing your knee pain. One of the most common causes of knee pain is osteoarthritis, but this is not necessarily the cause in you especially if you are young. If you are older, say in your 50s or older, then osteoarthritis or wear and tear arthritis could be a cause of your symptoms. In younger people, there are many other causes of knee pain such as tendinitis, meniscal tears, and other causes of inflammation of the joint itself. For starters, you should schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon will perform a physical exam of your knee and probably determine the cause just from that. If he or she is unable to determine the cause from the physical exam, then they will likely obtain plain x-rays of the knee. If the x-rays are unremarkable, and the cause of your knee pain is not known, then you will need to get an MRI of the knee to find out if there is a fixable problem. In addition, if there is no physical problem, at the very least you can get recommendations for medications that you take for the pain in addition to physical therapy.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.

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