Frequently Asked Questions
What causes knee pain?
There are a number of common causes of knee pain, the most common are ligament sprains; repetitive activities and normal age-related change.
Ligament sprains are normally caused by unusual or excessive activities or following a twisting type injury. This can cause the ligament to be overstretched and become irritated and it may cause your knee to become swollen. Most of the time simple ligament sprains settle after 3-6 weeks but occasionally it can last longer.
Repetitive activities or a sudden increase in your normal everyday routine or exercise programme can irritate a variety of structures around the knee. Insufficient rest periods between exercise or sudden spikes in activity levels are common causes of knee pain. Makin simple changes to your routine and allowing your body time to adapt is an important part of your recovery.
Normal age-related changes such as osteoarthritis can sometimes cause discomfort, swelling and stiffness. This is typically worse first thing in the morning or after periods of rest. Often with this type of problem the joint will become more uncomfortable for a few weeks and then gradually settle back down again.
Do I need a X-Ray or scan?
Most of the time investigations such as x-rays or MRI scans are not needed. Often they will just show normal age related changes and will therefore not make any difference to how your knee pain is managed. If you are unsure if you need further investigations then see your GP or physiotherapist and they should be able to help.
Do I need surgery?
Most knee pain can be managed without the need for surgery or injections. Occasionally surgery may be required for specific problems such as ligament or cartilage tears. An assessment by a physiotherapist should be able to identify if surgery is required.
What can I do to help?
The good news is that there are lots of things that you can do to help improve your knee symptoms.
Exercises that help to improve the strength and flexibility of your knees may make your pain easier and help to improve your everyday tasks. Try to do some regular general exercise as well because this will also help. Take a look at our knee leaflet for some examples or make an appointment with a physiotherapist if you need some more advice.
Modifying your activities is very important. If you notice certain activities make your knee pain worse, then try reducing the amount that you do in the short term to see if this helps. As your pain improves, these activities can be reintroduced gradually.
Losing weight if you are overweight can help to reduce the load through your knees and this can often improve your pain, as well as it being good for your general health.
Medication that controls your pain will enable you to remain more active and continue to exercise and this will help with your knee pain in the long term.
Addressing other lifestyle factors such as low mood, anxiety, stress and poor sleep can all help with the management of pain. If you need support with these issues then speak with your GP.
Is there anything that I should look out for?
If you experience any of the following then seek medical advice as soon as possible
A red, hot and swollen knee
Generally feeling unwell (e.g. flu like symtoms)
Being unable to put any weight on your leg, especially after trauma
Sudden unexplained weight loss
A previous history of cancer