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Swollen Knee Joint


A swollen knee joint may be caused by arthritis or by an injury or trauma, such as a knee sprain. It may also happen if you exercise too much. It may be painful to bend or straighten your knee, or walk.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your knee locks or gives way. This may cause you to fall.
  • Your feet or toes start to look pale or feel cold.
  • You cannot bear weight on your leg, or you have severe pain even after treatment.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have redness or warmth over your knee.
  • The swelling does not decrease with treatment.
  • It gets harder or more painful to straighten your leg at the knee.
  • Your knee weakens, or you continue to limp.
  • 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.


  • Rest your knee. Avoid activities that make the swelling or pain worse. You may need to avoid putting weight on your knee while you have pain. Crutches, a cane, or a walker can be used to avoid putting weight on your knee while it heals.
  • Apply ice on your knee 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.
  • Compress your knee with a brace or bandage to help reduce swelling. Use a brace or bandage only as directed.
  • Elevate your knee 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.
  • Apply heat on your knee for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

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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.