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Knee Problems

Pain, swelling, stiffness and "water" on the knee are common symptoms. Follow this chart for more information about knee problems, possible diagnoses and self-care.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Did your knee pain or swelling begin after a fall, twisting injury, or after your knee was hit by an object or person?

  • Is your knee deformed?

  • Is your kneecap swollen, tender, and warm, and do you have pain with activity?

  • Is your knee tender and swollen, and does the pain get worse after sitting for a long time or after using the stairs?

  • Do you have a sharp pain behind your knee and is it painful to extend (stretch out straight) your leg?

  • Do you still have a grinding feeling in your joint or does it ever lock (i.e., you can’t flex or extend the joint or it is stuck in one of those positions), even after your knee pain is better?

  • Is your knee swollen and/or red?

  • Do you have a fever along with swollen and/or red joints?

  • Has your knee become tender over many months or years and does the pain get worse when the weather changes?

  • Is the back of your knee swollen or tender?

  • Are you between 12 and 18 years, and do you have a pain on the front of your knee below your kneecap that gets worse with activities like running or jumping?

  • Are you younger than 18 years, and do you have knee pain?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    Your knee may be FRACTURED and/or you may have seriously TORN some LIGAMENTS (tissue connecting bones to each other) in the internal part of the knee.


    Self Care

    EMERGENCY
    See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.


  • Diagnosis

    If you fell hard on your kneecap/patella it may be FRACTURED. Otherwise, it may be bruised or you may have PREPATELLAR BURSITIS, an irritation of a small lubricating sac (called bursa) in front of the kneecap.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. Stretching and applying ice, as well as compression sleeves or wraps, may help with the discomfort and swelling.


  • Diagnosis

    Your symptoms may be from TORN CARTILAGE/MENISCUS, a TORN LIGAMENT (tissue connecting bones to each other), or CHONDROMALACIA PATELLAE, the softening of the ligament or cartilage underneath the kneecap.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. Rest and anti-inflammatory medicine, as well as a compression sleeve or wrap, may help relieve the pain. Physical therapy, stretching, and strengthening exercises can also help.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a TORN HAMSTRING MUSCLE.


    Self Care

    Apply ice to the area and use an anti-inflammatory medicine. You may also wrap your thigh with an elastic bandage or compression sleeve. Keep the injured leg elevated above the level of your heart. See your doctor if there’s excessive swelling or pain, or the pain does not improve with simple rest.


  • Diagnosis

    This may be from TORN CARTILAGE/TORN MENISCUS.


    Self Care

    Use an anti-inflammatory medicine and rest your knee. If you keep experiencing pain or if your knee becomes swollen, see your doctor. Stretching and strengthening exercises can also help with healing.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, but you may also have a more serious problem, such as RHEUMATIC FEVER or a SEPTICE JOINT INFECTION.


    Self Care

    URGENT
    See your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to tell what’s causing your symptoms, and may refer you for or perform a joint aspiration (removing fluid from your knee joint).


  • Diagnosis

    Chronic pain and stiffness may be caused by OSTEOARTHRITIS, which can develop over time or can be the result of previous surgeries or trauma.


    Self Care

    Try an anti-inflammatory medicine. Applying heat to tender joints may also help relieve the pain. Regular physical activity can also improve symptoms. If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve, see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    The swelling may be from a BAKER’S CYST, which often occurs following a small tear of your CARTILAGE/MENISCUS, or can result from ARTHRITIS.


    Self Care

    Try an anti-inflammatory medicine. You can also use a compressive wrap, bandage, or sleeve. Exercises for strengthening and stretching can also be helpful. If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve, see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have OSGOOD-SCHLATTER DISEASE (also known as TIBIAL APOPHYSITIS).


    Self Care

    Apply ice to the affected area and rest your leg. You can also use a compressive wrap, bandage, or sleeve. Exercises for strengthening and stretching can also be helpful. See your doctor if your pain is severe or if the swelling is excessive.


  • Diagnosis

    If there is no discernible issue at the knee, you may have a hip problem that feels like knee pain.


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Self Care

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.


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