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What Causes Knee Swelling And Stiffness

Common Causes Of Swollen Ankles Feet And Legs

Back of knee pain/stiffness? Popliteus muscle tightness

Swelling in the ankles, feet and legs is often caused by a build-up of fluid in these areas, called oedema.

Oedema is usually caused by:

  • standing or sitting in the same position for too long
  • eating too much salty food
  • being overweight
  • taking certain medicines such as some blood pressure medicines, contraceptive pills, antidepressants or steroids

Oedema can also be caused by:

  • problems with your kidneys, liver or heart
  • a blood clot

How Is Arthritis Of The Knee Treated

Healthcare providers can’t cure knee arthritis. But they have some tips that might reduce the severity of your symptoms and possibly stop the arthritis from getting worse, including:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise using low-impact activities instead of high-impact activities . Aim for about 150 minutes of exercise per week.
  • Wear shock-absorbing inserts in your shoes.
  • Apply heat or ice to the area.
  • Wear a knee sleeve or brace.
  • Physical therapy exercises that help with flexibility, strength and motion.
  • Use a cane.

Most people have stage 4 arthritis when they get surgery.

Common Causes Of Foot Leg And Ankle Swelling

There are many potential causes of foot, leg, and ankle swelling. In most cases, swelling occurs as a result of certain lifestyle factors, such as:

  • Being overweight. Excess body mass can decrease blood circulation, causing fluid to build up in the feet, legs, and ankles.
  • Standing or sitting for long periods. When the muscles are inactive, they cant pump body fluids back up toward the heart. The retention of water and blood can cause swelling in the legs.

Foot, leg, and ankle swelling can also occur while taking particular medications, such as:

These types of medications can lead to water retention, causing swelling in the legs.

Make sure to talk to your doctor if you suspect that your medication is causing swelling in your lower extremities. Dont stop taking your medication until you speak with your doctor.

Other possible causes for foot, leg, and ankle swelling include certain medical conditions or body changes, such as:

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Damage To The Cartilage At The Back Of The Kneecap

Knee pain that feels worse when you go up or down stairs could be a sign of a damaged kneecap, called chondromalacia patellae.

This should not cause any redness or heat around the knee.

The cause is not understood, but it can be linked to overuse of the knee.

You can treat this problem yourself with anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, an icepack and rest.

What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Failure

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You may not have any symptoms of heart failure, or the symptoms may be mild to severe. Symptoms can be constant or can come and go. The symptoms can include:

  • Congested lungs. Fluid backup in the lungs can cause shortness of breath with exercise or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying flat in bed. Lung congestion can also cause a dry, hacking cough or wheezing.
  • Fluid and water retention. Less blood to your kidneys causes fluid and water retention, resulting in swollen ankles, legs, abdomen , and weight gain. Symptoms may cause an increased need to urinate during the night. Bloating in your stomach may cause a loss of appetite or nausea.
  • Dizziness, fatigue, and weakness. Less blood to your major organs and muscles makes you feel tired and weak. Less blood to the brain can cause dizziness or confusion.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats. The heart beats faster to pump enough blood to the body. This can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

If you have heart failure, you may have one or all of these symptoms or you may have none of them. They may or may not indicate a weakened heart.

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How To Relieve Joint Stiffness

Before you begin researching treatment options, you should see a doctor. The best way to find a suitable treatment is to determine what is causing the problem. Your doctor can diagnose the issue and recommend an appropriate way to ease stiffness and prevent other symptoms you may be experiencing. Here are a few remedies that your doctor may suggest to treat your discomfort:

  • Over-the-counter medication can relieve mild symptoms of joint pain. NSAIDs like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are often used to treat arthritis.
  • Cold or hot compresses can be helpful. Cold will reduce swelling and heat will relax the muscles and joints.
  • Steroids can aid in reducing swelling and inflammation that causes stiffness.
  • Physical therapy and exercise help in improving mobility and maintaining a healthy weight, which can, in turn, reduce joint stiffness.
  • Glucosamine sulfate is a chemical that occurs naturally in the fluid surrounding the joints. Taking glucosamine sulfate as a supplement can relieve pain and stiffness.
  • Taking fish oil supplements can also reduce joint stiffness.

Is Leg Swelling Serious

Swelling in your legs may be a sign of another serious health problem.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Rapid onset of swelling in one or both legs is concerning for a deep vein thrombosis. Emergent evaluation is needed to prevent the life-threatening complication of a pulmonary embolism, where the blood clot breaks off and goes to the lungs.

  • Redness, warmth, skin ulceration, leg pain, or fever with a swollen leg should be checked for infection and blood clot.

  • Rapid onset of swelling in both legs suggests a body system isnt working well most commonly, the heart, kidneys, thyroid, or liver.

  • Large amounts of swelling in one or both legs raises concerns for blockage by a blood clot or a tumor.

  • Swelling associated with other concerning symptoms like chest pain, palpitations , dizziness, weakness, confusion, or shortness of breath may be related to a pulmonary embolism or other serious heart, kidney, liver, or thyroid problems.

  • Extreme leg pain, especially in a swollen leg that looks pale or feels numb or weak, is concerning for compartment syndrome, where swelling cuts off circulation to the leg. In these cases, emergent medical attention is required to save the limb.

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How Can I Prevent Fluid On The Knee

One of the best ways to prevent this condition is to take care of your joints.

Maintain a healthy weight, and practice exercises to keep the surrounding muscles strong, flexible, and supportive.

Consider low-impact activities such as cycling, swimming, or moderately challenging walking avoid steep hills. Make sure you use the correct form with any exercises to protect your knees and other joints.

When Should You Call The Doctor For A Knee Injury

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Emergent medical care should be sought if, due to injury,

  • there is almost immediate swelling in the knee,
  • if the bones appear deformed,
  • if there is inability to bear weight,
  • if the pain is intolerable,
  • if there is loss of sensation below the injury site,
  • if the foot and ankle turn cold and no pulses can be felt.

Medical care should be considered if a knee injury does not resolve with routine home care, including rest, ice, compression, and elevation . Other symptoms that may suggest the need for medical care include recurrent pain and swelling.

A swollen joint is never normal, and if it is red and warm or if there is an associated fever, more urgent medical attention should be accessed because of the worry of infection being present. This is particularly a warning sign in infants and children, people who have had knee joint replacements, intravenous drug abusers, and those who have compromised immune systems.

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Reasons Of Stiffness In Legs

  • If you suffer from leg stiffness in the morning, usually after you wake up, you may be sleeping in a certain position that does not allow proper oxygenation of your leg muscles while you slept.
  • Other possible causes for stiffness in legs include living a sedentary lifestyle and not getting enough exercise to get oxygenated blood circulating properly through all the different parts of your body.
  • You will also find that muscle stiffness in the legs can also be caused by overexerting yourself with physical activity and by carrying heavy loads that your legs cannot support.

Common Causes Of A Stiff Knee

The most common causes of a stiff knee are:

  • Meniscus Injuries: damage to the knee cartilage
  • Ligament Injuries: damage to the ACL, PCL, MCL or LCL
  • Fractures: damage to one of the knee bones
  • Tendonitis: inflammation or degeneration of one of the knee tendons
  • Knee Arthritis: wear and tear in the knee joint
  • Knee Bursitis: inflammation of one of the knee bursa
  • Gout Knee: an inflammatory arthritis causing joint crystal formation

There are also some other causes of a stiff knee that are fairly rare including arthrofibrosis, post exercise stiffness, tumors and infections.

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Knee Injury: 6 Things To Do For The Pain

Your plan will depend on your specific injury. Mild to moderate issues will often get better on their own. To speed the healing, you can:

  • Rest your knee. Take a few days off from intense activity.
  • Ice it to curb pain and swelling. Do it for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. Keep doing it for 2 to 3 days or until the pain is gone.
  • Compress your knee. Use an elastic bandage, straps, or sleeves to wrap the joint. It will keep down swelling or add support.
  • Elevate your knee with a pillow under your heel when youre sitting or lying down to cut down on swelling.
  • Take anti-inflammatorymedications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen will help with pain and swelling. Follow the instructions on the label. These drugs can have side effects, so you should only use them now and then unless your doctor says otherwise.
  • Practice stretching and strengthening exercises if your doctor recommends them. You may want to do physical therapy, too.
  • Some people with knee pain need more help. For instance, if you have bursitis, your doctor may need to draw out extra fluid from the bursa in your knee. If you have arthritis, you may need an occasional corticosteroid shot to settle down inflammation. And if you have a torn ligament or certain knee injuries, you may need surgery.

    What Are The Stages Of Arthritis Of The Knee

    Knee Pain Arthritis

    There are five stages of osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis that affects your knees:

    • Stage 0 . If youre at stage 0, your knees are healthy. You dont have arthritis of the knee.
    • Stage 1 . Stage 1 means that youve got some wear and tear in your knee joint. You probably wont notice pain.
    • Stage 2 . The mild stage is when you might start to feel pain and stiffness, but theres still enough cartilage to keep the bones from actually touching.
    • Stage 3 . If youre at the moderate stage, youll have more pain, especially when running, walking, squatting, and kneeling. Youll likely notice it after long periods of rest . You’re probably in a great deal of pain because the cartilage has narrowed even further and there are many bone spurs.
    • Stage 4 . Severe osteoarthritis means that the cartilage is almost gone. Your knee is stiff, painful and possibly immobile. You might need surgery.

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    What Are The Causes Of Knee Pain In Teenagers

    Common knee pain problems in your teenager can be generally divided into three types:

    • Anterior knee pain, also called patellofemoral pain.
    • Injures to ligaments and tendons of the knee or to the kneecap itself.
    • Medical conditions that affect the knee.

    Anterior knee pain happens when your teens kneecap is pulled out of its groove from increased pressure. Increased pressure on the knee joint is caused by:

    • Abnormal hip rotation due to imbalances in muscle strength and flexibility around the hips.
    • Improper training methods or equipment.
    • Poor flexibility of the thigh muscles, which support the knee joint. Thigh muscle weakness or tightness.
    • Overuse of the knee from repetitive bending of the knee during running, jumping, and other activities.
    • Problems with alignment, for example, the kneecap not being properly aligned within the knee or having flat feet, which changes the normal gait.

    Knee pain resulting from sprains, strains and tears to ligaments and tendons or injuries to other soft tissues. These conditions include:

    Medical conditions that can affect your teens knee include:

    What Are The Most Common Causes Of Knee Pain

    Muscle imbalances around the knee and thigh, lack of mobility in the hip, impact injuries caused by sports can all cause knee pain. One of the most common causes we see at ProBack Clinics is arthritis, caused by degeneration of the cartilage in the knee. Knee conditions can also be brought on by other problems within your body. For example, an issue in the spine can make joints move incorrectly. Thiscan create more pressure on the knee as it bears the weight of the body.

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    Brief Anatomy Of The Knee

    The knee is a vulnerable joint that bears a great deal of stress from everyday activities, such as lifting and kneeling, and from high-impact activities, such as jogging and aerobics.

    The knee is formed by the following parts:

    • Tibia. This is the shin bone or larger bone of the lower leg.

    • Femur. This is the thighbone or upper leg bone.

    • Patella. This is the kneecap.

    Each bone end is covered with a layer of cartilage that absorbs shock and protects the knee. Basically, the knee is 2 long leg bones held together by muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

    There are 2 groups of muscles involved in the knee, including the quadriceps muscles , which straighten the legs, and the hamstring muscles , which bend the leg at the knee.

    Tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. Some ligaments on the knee provide stability and protection of the joints, while other ligaments limit forward and backward movement of the tibia .

    Symptoms Of A Swollen Knee

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    • The skin around the kneecap is puffy
    • The knee is stiff and its difficult to bend or straighten it
    • Its painful and bearing weight is difficult or impossible
    • Redness or warmth

    Swelling that does not go away, also known as chronic swelling, can lead to joint damage, cartilage degradation, or bone softening.

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    How To Care For A Swollen Knee

    This blog post was updated for content on October 20. 2020. Existing comments have not been modified or removed.

    Knee swelling occurs when excess fluid accumulates on or around the knee joints. Doctors call this an effusion, and some people call it water on the knee. Sometimes, swelling will go away with home treatments. Other times, it may require visiting a doctor for medical treatment.

    What Can Cause Swelling Above Knee

    Swelling above knee appears like a puffed knee and the accumulation of fluid may give it a bulging appearance.2 Swelling above knee or swollen knee is often accompanied with pain, discomfort and inability to move the knee joint properly. The knee may appear red, warm to touch and weight bearing on the knee, walking and other activities may be difficult. Complete bending or straightening of the knee may be difficult and painful on account of swelling above knee.

    There can be many causes for swelling above knee, which includes:

    Swelling above Knee Caused Due to Injury or Trauma: Any injury or direct trauma to the soft tissue surrounding knee joint can result in swelling above the knee. People engaged in sports, adventure games, or an accident can experience swelling above the knee joint due to injuries to soft tissues resulting in ligament strains, tendon injuries, muscle strains, cartilage and meniscus injuries. Injuries to the knee cap and soft tissues of the knee cap can cause swelling above the knee. Serious injuries like fractures or dislocations of knee cap and knee joint too can cause swelling above the knee joint because of collection of blood. If the pain is very severe with inability to move the knee, then immediate medical attention should be sought.

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    Osteoarthritis The Most Common Reason For A Swollen Knee

    Osteoarthritis is by nature an inflammatory condition. As your arthritis worsens you may notice that the swelling is always present in the knee. Removing the fluid from an arthritic knee will usually make you feel better. Unfortunately for many arthritis sufferers, the swelling might return very rapidly.

    If your knee is swelling due to Osteoarthritis, its implied that your cartilage or the cushioning within the knee joint is wearing thin. The arthritic process also changes the chemicals within the knee and creates a rather hostile environment within the knee joint. This causes the Synovium to become irritated and produce a significant amount of fluid. Occasionally that fluid will migrate to the back of the knee and cause swelling in the back of the knee. If you have a swollen area in the back of the knee it is likely a Bakers cyst.

    What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Arthritis Of The Knee

    What Are the Causes of Stiffness After Total Knee Replacement ...

    It might be helpful to arrive at your healthcare providers office with a list of questions you want or need to be answered. Consider:

    • Do I have arthritis in one knee or both?
    • What type of arthritis do I have?
    • Whats a possible cause of my arthritis?
    • What treatments do you recommend?
    • What medications should I take?
    • Do I need physical therapy?

    A note from Cleveland Clinic

    Knee arthritis can affect people of all ages. Its painful, impairs movement and causes swelling of the joint. Some people are so disabled by it that they cant work anymore. Others can only work after surgery. Meanwhile, for others, the pain isnt necessarily as bad, but it still prevents them from regular activities like cleaning, gardening and running after their kids.

    Arthritis of the knee can decrease your quality of life. The good news is that treatments can lessen the severity of your symptoms. The pain and swelling might not be as bad. See your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment if you have symptoms.

    Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/18/2021.

    References

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