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All about knee problems

Knee problems

Knee problems can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • pain
  • stiffness
  • swelling

You don’t normally need to see a healthcare professional. New onset or flare-up of a longstanding knee problems should begin to settle within 6 weeks.

What causes knee problems?

Knee problems are common and can be caused by injury, growth spurts or normal wear and tear.

As you get older, normal wear and tear can cause your knee problem to flare-up now and again, often for no reason.

Can this cause problems anywhere else?

You may feel some pain in your hip, or the muscles around your thigh or lower leg. This should improve as your knee problem gets better.


Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • Keep a healthy body weight

If you have knee and hip pain and are aged over 45, find out how you can grow in confidence, feel, move and manage pain better, with improvements to both your physical and mental health. See our  Escape-pain participant stories, Escape-pain infographic  and TIMS Escape-Pain Flyer for how Escape-pain can help you.

It’s recommended you stay at or return to work as quickly as possible during your recovery. You don’t need to be pain and symptom-free to return to work.

Pain treatments

  • Pain medication can help to reduce the pain and help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery. Speak to your community pharmacist about  medication or other methods of pain relief​. It’s important to take medication regularly.​

Resting or moving?

Within the first 24 to 48 hours after your knee problem has started you should try to:

  • rest your knee but avoid long spells of not moving at all
  • move your knee gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you are awake
  • After 48 hours:
  • Try to use your leg more – exercise helps your knee and can relieve pain
  • Do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work – this is important and is the best way to get better
  • When going upstairs or downstairs if there’s a handrail, use it
  • Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement. Remember to warm up fully before you start sporting activities.
  • When to speak to a healthcare professional
  • If your knee becomes immediately swollen after a twisting injury
  • If your knee locks or gives way

Help and support

  • If, after following the above advice, your knee problem hasn’t improved within 6 weeks a self-referral to TIMS may be of benefit.
  • To refer yourself to TIMS you will need to have your NHS number to hand.
  • For information on where to find your NHS number see NHS England – How can I find out my NHS number?

Useful links for knee pain

  • Information leaflets developed by TIMS giving advice on:

  • YouTube Exercise Videos developed by TIMS:

    These videos have been developed by the clinical teams in Tyneside Integrated Musculoskeletal Service (TIMS) to support the management of patients in our service. If you have not been referred to this resource by TIMS you follow the advice at your own risk.

    • PF/Patella tendinopathy
      Suggested exercises and advice for patients presenting with pain on the anterior aspect of the knee associated with patella tendinopathy.
    • Total Knee Replacement exercises
      Post-op advice and exercises for patients following Total Knee Replacement, exercises focus on regaining flexion, extension, muscle power, balance and mobility.
    • ACL rehab (stage 2)
      Exercise programme for patients post ACL reconstruction, the focus of these exercise are regaining strength of the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscle groups as well as balance exercises.  These exercises should be initiated at week 2 post surgery on the advice of the physiotherapist.
    • ACL rehab (stage 3)
      Exercise programme for patients post ACL reconstruction, this includes a higher level of strength exercises of the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscle groups, dynamic  balance exercises and introducing some controlled impact work.  These exercises should be initiated at week 6 post surgery on the advice of the physiotherapist.
    • High level agility/plyometrics
      Suggested high level exercises for patients wishing to return to sport after an injury to the lower limb, particularly useful for ACL rehab from 12 weeks post-op.
    • Lower Limb strengthening exercises
      Exercise programme including hip, knee and ankle strengthening exercises with a progression of exercises for each area.  Ideal for post trauma, post op or for patients suffering from general deconditioning.
    • Proprioception/balance exercises
      Specific balance exercises for patients who have problems with balance, particularly for patients who have suffered an ankle injury.
    • Lower limb stretches
      An exercise programme incorporating generic stretches of the lower limb.
    • Safe and Steady
      Suggestions of exercises and activities for those patients who feel unsteady when walking to help improve their confidence and balance when mobilizing.
    • Escape Pain

      • Escape Pain is an education and exercise programme for people with hip or knee osteoarthritis.
      • If you have knee and hip pain and are aged over 45, find out how you can grow in confidence, feel, move and manage pain better, with improvements to both your physical and mental health. The following resources explain more about how Escape-pain can help you.
      • We are now able provide escape pain delivered virtually via microsoft teams or via face to face groups located across Newcastle and Gateshead. These groups will provide you with the support required to exercise appropriately and provide advise and education for management of your joint. Please complete referral form for TIMS stating you would like to be considered for an escape pain class.
      • Alternatively if you choose to try escape pain independently you can access the videos by clicking on the links below.
    • Exercise videos with simple, easy to follow exercise with clear instructions that were developed so you can do the exercises safely in their homes;
    • Educational videos with engaging animations giving simple advice and information to help you understand how to better manage your condition;
    • Individual progress chart to track your improvement over time.​
  • Other sources of information