NHS website

Knee pain

Sudden knee pain is usually the result of overusing the knee or suddenly injuring it. In many cases, you don't need to see your GP.

6 August 2018

Introduction

Knee pain can often be treated at home – you should start to feel better in a few days. See a GP if the pain is very bad or lasts a long time.

How to ease knee pain and swelling

Try these things at first:

  • put as little weight as possible on the knee – for example, avoid standing for a long time
  • use an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a teatowel) on your knee for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • take paracetamol
  • it doesn't improve within a few weeks
  • you can't move your knee or put any weight on it
  • your knee locks, painfully clicks or gives way – painless clicking is normal
  • your knee is very painful
  • 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 the knee – this can be a sign of infection

Find a minor injuries unit ↗

Common causes of knee pain

Knee pain can be a symptom of many different conditions. A doctor will suggest treatment based on the condition causing your pain. They might:

  • refer you to hospital for a scan or specialist treatment, for example surgery
  • prescribe medication or physiotherapy

Use these links to get an idea of what can be done about knee pain. But don't self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Knee pain after an injury

Knee symptoms Possible cause
Pain after overstretching, overusing or twisting, often during exercise sprains and strains ↗
Pain between your kneecap and shin, often caused by repetitive running or jumping tendonitis ↗
Unstable, gives way when you try to stand, unable to straighten, may hear a popping sound during injury torn ligament, tendon or meniscus, cartilage damage ↗
Teenagers and young adults with pain and swelling below kneecap Osgood-Schlatter's disease
Kneecap changes shape after a collision or sudden change in direction dislocated kneecap ↗

Knee pain with no obvious injury

Knee symptoms Possible cause
Pain and stiffness in both knees, mild swelling, more common in older people osteoarthritis ↗
Warm and red, kneeling or bending makes pain and swelling worse bursitis ↗
Swelling, warmth, bruising, more likely while taking anticoagulants bleeding in the joint
Hot and red, sudden attacks of very bad pain gout ↗ or septic arthritis ↗