Causes of Knee Pain
- Arthritis (e.g., degenerative, gouty, infectious, inflammatory, traumatic)
- Baker's Cyst (popliteal cyst): This is a fluid collection in a cyst that bulges out from the knee joint. Symptoms include painful or painless swelling in the area behind the knee.
- Bursitis: Prepatellar bursitis is a fluid filled sack localized on the inferior aspect of the anterior knee.
- Overuse injury, tendonitis
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome (chondromalacia patellae)
- Trauma (e.g., contusion, dislocation, fracture, sprain, strain)
Some Signs and Symptoms That Could be SERIOUS
- Severe pain and unable to walk
- Knee swelling with fever (possibility of infection of knee joint)
- Unilateral calf pain and/or swelling (possibility of blood clot in leg)
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
Should I Call?
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- You feel weak or very sick
- Severe pain (can't stand or walk)
- Fever and swollen knee joint
- Redness of skin around knee
- Pain or swelling in one calf
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think you need to be seen
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Swollen knee joint
- Fluid-filled sack just below knee cap
- Symptoms interfere with work or school
- Knee pain persists longer than 7 days
- Knee pain is a recurrent problem
- Knee giving way (or buckling) when walking, is a recurrent problem
- Knee locking (i.e., joint gets stuck, catching), is a recurrent problem
Self Care at Home If
- Mild knee pain and you don't think you need to be seen
Care at Home
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR A MILD KNEE PAIN
- Knee Pain after Overuse: Muscle strain and joint irritation are very common following vigorous activity. Such activities include sports like tennis and basketball, jogging, and certain types of work.
- Local Cold: Apply a cold pack or ice bag (wrapped in a moist towel) to the area for 20 minutes. Repeat in 1 hour, then every 4 hours while awake. Continue this for the first 48 hours after an overuse injury (Reason: reduce the swelling and pain).
- Local Heat: Beginning 48 hours after an injury, apply a warm washcloth or heating pad for 10 minutes three times a day to help increase circulation and improve healing.
- Rest Your Knee for the next couple days. Avoid activities that worsen your pain. Reduce activities that put a lot of strain on the knee joint (e.g., deep knee bends, stair climbing, running).
- Pain Medicines:
- Expected Course: If your knee pain does not get better during the next week or if it recurs, then you should make an appointment with your doctor.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Knee pain persists longer than 7 days
- You become worse
And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
First Aid - Bleeding Leg
- Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a sterile gauze dressing or a clean cloth.
First Aid - R.I.C.E.
RICE is an acronym for how to take care of a sprain, strain, or bruise. There are four things you should do:
- REST the injured part of your body for 24 hours. Can return to normal activity after 24 hours of rest if the activity does not cause severe pain.
- Continue to apply crushed ICE packs for 10-20 minutes every hour for the first 4 hours. Then apply ice for 10-20 minutes 4 times a day for the first two days.
- Apply COMPRESSION by wrapping the injured part with a snug, elastic bandage for 48 hours. If numbness, tingling, or increased pain occurs in the injured part, the bandage may be too tight. Loosen the bandage wrap.
- Keep the injured part of the body ELEVATED and at rest for 24 hours. For example, for an injured ankle, place that leg up on a pillow and stay off the feet as much as possible.
Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 11/18/2011
Last Revised: 11/18/2011
Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Portions Copyright 2000-2012 Self Care Decisions LLC; Copyright LMS, Inc.