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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

If you have knee pain, 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
  • use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen gel or tablets

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • knee pain does not improve within a few weeks

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
  • your knee locks, gives way or painfully clicks – painless clicking is normal
  • 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.

Get help from NHS 111 online 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.

Treatments for knee pain

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)

Self-refer for treatment

If you have knee pain, you might be able to refer yourself directly to services for help with your condition without seeing a GP.

To find out if there are any services in your area:

  • ask the reception staff at your GP surgery
  • check your GP surgery's website
  • contact your integrated care board (ICB) – find your local ICB
  • search online for NHS treatment for knee pain near you

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
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


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

Kneecap changes shape after a collision or sudden change in direction

Dislocated kneecap

Knee pain with no obvious injury
Knee symptoms Possible causes

Pain and stiffness in both knees, mild swelling, more common in older people


Warm and red, kneeling or bending makes pain and swelling worse


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

Teenagers and young adults with pain and swelling below kneecap

Osgood Schlatter's disease

Page last reviewed: 21 December 2023
Next review due: 21 December 2026