What Causes Knee Swelling?

What Causes Knee Swelling?

Knee swelling is basically your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and that it’s trying to fix it. Swelling in your knee might result in difficulty bending your knee, problems straightening it entirely, or an odd bend in the joint when you are at rest. You might even find that your swollen knee exhibits no symptoms beyond redness, pain, or difficulty putting weight on the knee, something particularly common with certain diseases. Keep reading if you are interested in learning more about why knees tend to swell and how to treat it.

Causes of Knee Swelling and Treatment Options

Identifying the reason behind the swelling can help you to mitigate future issues like cartilage degradation, joint tissue damage, or bone softening. Below are some of the most common causes:


Injuries to the knee bones, tendons, cartilage, meniscus, or ligaments can cause blood to flow to your joints, which results in bruising and swelling. These injuries can be as simple as a strain or a more serious break.
The treatment for this is typically the RICE method, or rest, ice, compression, and elevation. More serious injuries might call for doctor recommended treatment. If your injury is something sports related, for example, you might be advised to avoid that sport as much as possible or to at least cut down how often you do it. Additional therapy might be suggested for you to help with things like Runner’s Knee, a common injury that can manifest from overuse and not enough stretching of the quadriceps. In more serious cases, again, the doctor might suggest something more serious and long term.



Overproduction of joint fluid can cause your knee to swell, something known as knee osteoarthritis. This happens when overuse leads to degeneration of your knee joint. The treatment will depend on the severity and can include weight loss, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, knee braces designed for osteoarthritis, occupational therapy, or surgery. Corticosteroids suppress your body’s immune system and remain the most powerful anti-inflammatory drugs there are. The steroids are injected usually into the spot where the pain or problem exists and they work very quickly. Here’s a video that will give you an idea on what’s involved when you get a steroid joint injection treatment for knee osteoarthritis:

Knee Osteoarthritis Steroid Joint Injection Treatment | Auburn Medical Group


Septic or Non-Septic Bursitis

If your swollen knee feels more squishy than painful, it might be Bursitis. This happens when the bursa, small fluid-filled sacs in the body whose role is to protect the joints, fill with too much fluid. Again, the treatment generally depends on the severity of your case and whether you are septic or not. It can include antibiotics, corticosteroid injections, aspiration, or surgery. For additional information on bursitis, read our post Bursitis Of The Knee.


When uric acid crystals accumulate in the joint, it causes a gout attack. Knee swelling might take place alongside redness and severe pain. Gout is a form of arthritis which is known as crystal related arthropathic arthritis. Many people know about rheumatoid arthritis which is caused by your immune system attacking your joints but crystal related arthritis is when uric acid crystals form inside of your joints.
There are a few ways to treat Gout. For example, weight control and regular exercise for your uric acid levels is imperative to your healthy living. There are so many viable options for dietary changes and some of them are very small such as simply cutting one thing out of your diet or simply adding another. Vitamin C has a strong impact on uric acid levels in the body. Alcohol consumption remains one of the most significant lifestyle behaviors to impact gout. For more information on Gout, refer to Questions & Answers About Gout.

Popular Product to Control Knee Swelling

As we mentioned above, in most cases your doctor will recommend the RICE method to treat your knee swelling. Rest and Elevation are really up to you to control, however there are products that can help you with the rest, which is Ice and Compression. Here is a popular option that is available at Amazon that can help you in that department:

Cold Therapy Knee Ice Wrap with Compression and Extra Ice Gel Pack - Essential Kit for Knee Pain...
169 Reviews
Cold Therapy Knee Ice Wrap with Compression and Extra Ice Gel Pack - Essential Kit for Knee Pain...
  • DESIGNED FOR THE KNEE - The gel packs and wrap were specifically designed to contour the knee area for a more focused treatment. Fits the left or right knee, up to 24 inches. (See sizing chart)
  • REDUCE KNEE PAIN AND SWELLING - Our cold therapy wrap helps to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain caused by Arthritis, Runner's Knee, tendinitis, bursitis, meniscus / ACL ligament tears, knee...
  • WHY COMPRESSION IS IMPORTANT - The added compression ensures that there is proper contact between the ice gel pack and the affected knee for a deeper treatment, compared to just using ice packs on...

We hope that this article gives you a better idea on what could be causing your knee swelling and how to treat it. As always, before you try anything new, consult your doctor and make sure they are involved with the diagnosis and treatment of it. If you have suffered with knee swelling before, we’d love to get your feedback on what worked and didn’t work. Just use the comment box below. Until next time!

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2 thoughts on “What Causes Knee Swelling?

  1. Have you ever tried the Aircast cryo cuff for icing your knee? Just wanted to know what you opinion was on it.

    1. Hi James – Yes, a friend of mine had to buy one for post-ACL recovery and I ended up using it when I hyexperextended my knee a few years ago. They are pricey, but work really well. Because it recirculates the cold water through the system, you can use it for a long time before you have to change the water (versus an ice wrap, which you have to put back in the freezer after a short while). If you want more info, check out my post: Cryo-Cuff Knee Systems – Are They Worth It?

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