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Knee pain

Knee pain can often be treated at home. You should start to feel better in a few days. Call 111 if the pain is very bad.

How to ease knee pain and swelling

Try these things at first:

  • put as little weight as possible on your knee – for example, avoid standing for a long time
  • use an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) on your knee for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • take paracetamol

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • knee pain does not improve within a few weeks
  • your knee locks, painfully clicks or gives way – painless clicking is normal
Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:

  • your knee is very painful
  • you cannot move your knee or put any weight on it
  • 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 your knee – this can be a sign of infection

111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help

You can also go to an urgent treatment centre if you need to see someone now.

They're also called walk-in centres or minor injuries units.

You may be seen quicker than you would at A&E.

Treatment from a GP

A doctor can suggest treatment based on what's causing your knee pain.

They might:

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

Common causes of knee pain

Knee pain can be a symptom of many different conditions.

This information might give you an idea of what the cause might be. But do not self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Knee pain after an injury

Possible causes
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

Causes of knee pain without 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

Page last reviewed: 12 January 2021
Next review due: 12 January 2024