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Knee Pain


Knee pain may start suddenly, or it may be a long-term problem. You may have pain on the side, front, or back of your knee. You may have knee stiffness and swelling. You may hear popping sounds or feel like your knee is giving way or locking up as you walk. You may feel pain when you sit, stand, walk, or climb up and down stairs. Knee pain can be caused by conditions such as obesity, inflammation, or strains or tears in ligaments or tendons.


Follow up with your healthcare provider within 24 hours or as directed:

You may need follow-up treatments, such as steroid injections to decrease pain. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Rest your knee so it can heal. Limit activities that increase your pain.
  • Ice can help reduce swelling. Wrap ice in a towel and put it on your knee for as long and as often as directed.
  • Compression with a brace or bandage can help reduce swelling. Use a brace or bandage only as directed.
  • Elevation helps decrease pain and swelling. Elevate your knee while you are sitting or lying down. Prop your leg on pillows to keep your knee above the level of your heart.


  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Exercise as directed:

You may need to see a physical therapist or do recommended exercises to improve movement and decrease your pain. You may be directed to walk, swim, or ride a bike. Follow your exercise plan exactly as directed to avoid further injury.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your pain is worse, even after treatment.
  • You cannot bend or straighten your leg completely.
  • The swelling around your knee does not go down even with treatment.
  • Your knee is painful and hot to the touch.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.