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Swollen Joint


Joint swelling may occur in one or more joints. You may have other symptoms, such as pain, tenderness, or stiffness. A swollen joint may be caused by a variety of conditions such as arthritis, pseudogout, gout, tendinitis, or injury.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You cannot move your joint at all.
  • You have severe pain that does not get better with medicine.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have redness or warmth over the joint.
  • The swelling does not decrease with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and 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.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Rest your swollen joint. Avoid activities that make the swelling or pain worse. You may need to avoid putting weight on your joint while you have pain. Crutches or a walker can be used to avoid putting weight on joints in your lower body.
  • Apply ice on your swollen joint for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Apply heat on your swollen joint for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain.
  • Elevate your swollen joint above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your joint on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.