Knee pain icon

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.

Self-help

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

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?