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.

19 February 2019


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

See a GP if:

  • 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

Go to to a minor injuries unit or A&E if:

  • 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 ↗