When To See Your Doctor
Its important that you see a doctor when seeking treatment. A doctor can determine the cause of your knee tightness, and together you can develop a treatment plan to resolve your condition. You may have a physical exam, imaging tests, or lab tests.
You may be referred to a doctor specializing in physical therapy or musculoskeletal and joint problems, or a rheumatologist. If you need surgery, youll be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you dont already have a doctor.
When youre doing knee stretches and exercises its important that you follow a few guidelines in order to get the maximum benefits. Here are a few tips:
Lifestyle And Home Remedies
Taking care of yourself when you have a swollen knee includes:
- Rest. Avoid weight-bearing activities as much as possible.
- Ice and elevation. To control pain and swelling, apply ice to your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every two to four hours. When you ice your knee, raise your knee higher than the level of your heart, using pillows for comfort.
- Pain relievers. Over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce your knee pain.
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Treatment For A Swelling On Side Of Knee
With those that have a history of osteoarthritis and swelling after strenuous activity, like a workout or run, over-the-counter medications will help alleviate the pain. Patient may also apply compression sleeves to decrease the swelling during and after activity. Another way to decrease swelling at home is to use R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Knee is swollen from Bursitis
- Rest Rest the joint and refrain from hard workouts, sports, and prolonged activity for 24-48 hours. Normal range of motion should continue to decrease joint stiffening.
REST for the RICE Protocol
- Ice Ice can be applied to the knee 3-4 times a day for 15-20 minutes at a time. Ice should never be applied directly to the skin.
Ice for the RICE Protocol
- Compression An ace bandage, compression sleeve or socks may not only reduce swelling already present, but may limit knee swelling during activity.
Compression Socks for the RICE Protocol
- Elevation Reducing blood flow to the area by sitting with the leg on a stool or lying down with the foot on a pillow, will reduce swelling.
Elevation Above Your Heart for RICE
Image of a swollen knee
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What Is The Knee Joint
Three bones come together to form your knee joint. They include the:
- Thighbone .
- Shinbone .
- Kneecap .
A smooth substance called cartilage covers the ends of each bone. Its a cushion between the bones that keeps them from rubbing together. The synovial membrane, a type of tissue that surrounds the joint, lubricates the cartilage.
Arthritis of the knee causes pain and swelling in the joint
Treatment To Help Relieve Symptoms
If you have pain and discomfort because of your Bakers cyst, one or more of the following may be helpful:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . These can help to relieve pain and may also limit inflammation and swelling. There are many types and brands. You can buy at pharmacies, without a prescription. You need a prescription for the others. Side-effects sometimes occur with NSAIDs. Stomach pain and bleeding from the stomach are the most serious. Some people with asthma, high blood pressure, kidney failure and heart failure may not be able to take NSAIDs. So, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking them, to make sure they are suitable for you.
- Stronger pain relief. If the cyst ruptures, the fluid from inside the cyst may leak into the calf and cause worse pain. In this situation, stronger medication may be needed.
- Ice may also help to reduce swelling and pain. Make an ice pack by wrapping ice cubes in a plastic bag or towel. A bag of frozen peas is an alternative. Apply the ice pack for 10-30 minutes. Less than 10 minutes has little effect. More than 30 minutes may damage the skin.
- Crutches. It may be necessary to use crutches to get about until your symptoms ease. They help to take the weight off the affected leg while you are walking.
- Physiotherapy. Keeping your knee joint moving and using strengthening exercises to help the muscles around your knee may be helpful.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Arthritis Of The Knee
There are many signs and symptoms of arthritis of the knee:
- Creaking, clicking, grinding or snapping noises .
- Difficulty walking.
- Joint pain that changes depending on the weather.
- Joint stiffness.
- Knee joint pain that progresses slowly or pain that happens suddenly.
- Skin redness.
- Your knee locks or sticks when its trying to move.
- Warm skin.
Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis of the knee. Some treatments might reduce the severity of your symptoms or even stall the progression. See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of knee arthritis.
What Does It Mean If My Knee Is Swollen
Swelling in the knee, also known as knee effusion or water on the knee, occurs when fluid collects around the knee joint. Swelling can occur due to many different reasons and apply to all ages of patients.
While some reasons for swelling can be treated with over-the-counter medication, persistent and constant swelling can lead to tissue damage, bone softening, and cartilage loss.
The quick answer is when swelling in the knee is accompanied by constant pain and other issues, it is advised to seek medical attention. The following information will include common reasons to explain what does it mean when my knee is swollen. Below are common treatment methods and when it is advised to contact a doctor. Read this article about knee pain and 5 knee symptoms you should not ignore.
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What Are The Stages Of Arthritis Of The Knee
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.
Risk Factors For A Swollen Knee
- Being overweight or obese your knees are weight-bearing so any excess weight puts more strain on them, which can damage your knee joint over time obesity also increases the risk of osteoarthritis, which is a common cause of a swollen knees
- Playing certain sports if you take part in sports that involve pivoting, rotating or twisting your knees, youre at greater risk of knee injuries, which cause swelling
- Your age your risk increases as you get older
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Treatments For Swollen Knee
Your treatment will depend on whats causing your swollen knee and how painful it is. Your doctor will recommend the most appropriate treatment after diagnosing the underlying cause.
In most cases, youll be advised to take painkillers. You can also apply ice and elevate your knee to help reduce the swelling. Sometimes removing some of the fluid in your knee helps reduce the pain and stiffness.
Other treatments include:
Osteoarthritis And Rheumatoid Arthritis
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two common types of arthritis that can lead to knee tightness. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in the knee to erode, leading to malalignment. Rheumatoid arthritis causes damage to the lining of the joints, which leads to inflammation. Both types of arthritis can lead to limited function and range of motion, deformity, and tightness.
Exercises that strengthen the surrounding muscle groups may help your range of motion and knee stability.
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What Is Knee Swelling
Swelling in the knees is a common problem with many possible causes. Knee joints are complicated structures with a number of parts that can cause pain, including:
- Tendons, which connect muscles and bones
- Ligaments, which connect bones to other bones
- Cartilage, which covers the ends of bones and cushions them from each other
Knees have a heavy workload in our lives and bear our weight much of the time. Many kinds of injuries, arthritis, and other problems caused by repetitive use can lead to swelling, an accumulation of fluid in a particular part of the body.
What Causes Swelling Behind The Knee
There are a number of different causes of swelling behind the knee. In most cases, back of knee swelling is caused by a build-up of fluid or an abnormal growth in the popliteal space the soft area at the back of the knee.
Here we look at five common causes of swelling behind the knee, the causes and symptoms of each, how to tell whether its something serious and the best ways to treat causes of swelling behind the knee.
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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.
Or You May Have A Bakers Cyst
Also known as popliteal or synovial cysts, Bakers cysts are fluid-filled lumps that develop on the back of the knee. According to Dr. Gladstone, theyre pretty common and nothing to be too alarmed about.
Deep within the knee joint, theres a layer of thin tissue called the capsule between your bones, Dr. Gladstone explains. When some sort of damage causes swelling within the knee joint, the pressure pushes extra fluid in the capsule out behind the knee joint, essentially creating a what looks like a swollen ball at the back of the knee.
Not typically too painful, Bakers cysts are often caused by arthritis or an acute injury within the knee. In some cases, they disappear on their own, but often reoccur if you dont treat the underlying cause.
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Youre Dealing With An Injury
Whether you took a tumble during your workout or just walked smack into the coffee table, swelling is a normal reaction to injuriesincluding those around your knees. In fact, injuries are the most common reason for swollen knees that James Gladstone, MD, chief of sports medicine at The Mount Sinai Health System, sees in younger, healthy patients.
Injuries signal an inflammatory response in the body, which causes swelling, Dr. Gladstone explains. Immediately post-injury, blood flow to the injured area increases, delivering the rush of fluids, proteins, and white blood cells needed to start the healing process. As a result, the injured area becomes red and swollen.
Two common knee injuries: a torn ACL and a torn meniscus .
Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 Now If:
- your knee is very painful
- you cannot move your knee or put any weight on it
- your knee is badly swollen or has changed shape
- you have a very high temperature, feel hot and shivery, and have redness or heat around your knee this can be a sign of infection
111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or .
You can also go to an urgent treatment centre if you need to see someone now.
They’re also called walk-in centres or minor injuries units.
You may be seen quicker than you would at A& E.
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Conditions That May Cause Knee Problems
Problems not directly related to an injury or overuse may occur in or around the knee.
- Osteoarthritis may cause knee pain that is worse in the morning and improves during the day. It often develops at the site of a previous injury. Other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus, also can cause knee pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Osgood-Schlatter disease causes pain, swelling, and tenderness in the front of the knee below the kneecap. It is especially common in boys ages 11 to 15.
- A popliteal cyst causes swelling in the back of the knee.
- Infection in the skin , joint , bone , or bursa can cause pain and decreased knee movement.
- A problem elsewhere in the body, such as a pinched nerve or a problem in the hip, can sometimes cause knee pain.
- Osteochondritis dissecans causes pain and decreased movement when a piece of bone or cartilage or both inside the knee joint loses blood supply and dies.
Nhs Lists 20 Most Painful Conditions That Can Affect Your Health
The NHS has issued a list of the most common illnesses, diseases and afflictions that can leave us feeling debilitated and unable to go about our daily lives
From grazing our knees in the playground or falling from a tree, to fracturing a bone in a minor mishap or having a swollen and sore throat, we have all felt different kinds of physical pain in our lives.
As youngsters, it’s how we learn to be wary of stinging nettles and avoid hot pans on the hob, but some conditions cause pain so severe that it completely affects our ability to move around and perform even the most mundane of daily tasks.
Such pain can take a toll not only on our physical health, but our mental health too, particularly if left untreated.
Many of the most painful conditions are hidden, invisible to plain sight, meaning some people can suffer with them for years before they are properly diagnosed.
So here’s a list of the 20 most painful and disruptive conditions, along with the symptoms that can help you spot them.
Acute pancreatitis is the potentially fatal, sudden swelling of the pancreas, a banana-sized organ that’s part of the digestive system.
Most commonly caused by gallstones and alcohol abuse, it causes severe abdominal pain and inflammation which suddenly appear.
It is accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse, and tenderness of the abdomen.
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What Are The Potential Complications Of Behind Knee Swelling
Swelling related to cancers may have life-threatening consequences, which depend on the type and stage of the . Left untreated, swelling due to abscesses or serious infections may lead to widespread infection in the body. Behind knee swelling and associated symptoms can be due to serious diseases, so failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage.
Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
What Is The Best Treatment For A Swollen Knee
Basic treatment for a swollen knee should start with the RICE formula Rest, Ice, Compression , Elevation and analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Please visit this page for more on the RICE formula.
Many people will quickly begin treatments such as physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathy, without getting a clear knee pain diagnosis.
If you take this approach, you may have to go through a great deal of pain and spend lots of time and money on the wrong treatment without getting any better .
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You May Have An Autoimmune Condition
In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, a number of other autoimmune conditionsin which the immune system attacks the body in various wayscan contribute to swelling and pain throughout the body, including in the knees.
Though less common, systemic autoimmune conditions, like lupus, may cause swelling, Dr. Gladstone says. Like Lyme, these conditions may explain inflammation in the knees when nothing else can. Along with pain and swelling, people with autoimmune conditions often experience chronic fatigue, muscle aches, and low fevers.
Stay updated on the latest science-backed health, fitness, and nutrition news by signing up for the Prevention.com newsletter here.
Treatment Of A Swollen Knee:
If the knee is swollen because of trauma, injury or sports, then consider seeing an Orthopedic Surgeon soon for evaluation.
If this is your first swollen knee episode and you are not known to have a history of osteoarthritis it is very important to have your knee evaluated by your primary care doctor or an orthopedist. This is especially true if you live in regions of the country where tick borne illnesses are common. Lyme disease is far easier to treat if caught early.
If your knee is swollen, and exceptionally painful it is important to be evaluated on an urgent or emergent basis to be sure you are not suffering from an infection. Typically the swelling associated with gout or infections is far more severe pain than the swelling associated with the other causes of inflammation. If you have a hot, swollen and exceptionally painful knee you will require testing of the fluid from within your knee to rule out either gout or an infection.
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