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  • Writer's pictureAdam Whatley

What is causing me knee swelling?

Updated: Mar 27

A swollen knee is a common problem which can affect paso please of all ages. There are many reasons why the knees can become swollen, and as a result it can cause pain and disability.

Determining the cause of a swollen knee is very important. It may an acute condition caused by a traumatic injury or a chronic condition which has developed slowly over time. The location of the swelling is also important to determine as it can often vary, knee swelling can sometimes occur within the knee joint itself, or in the soft tissues surrounding the knee.

The first step in treating knee swelling is to diagnose the cause. We do this by first looking at the appearance of the knee itself. When the swelling is within the knee joint, the kneecap is usually well-defined and easily felt under the skin but it may seem pushed out to one side. When the swelling is in the soft tissue, ie bursitis, the kneecap may not be visible, or there may be prominent swelling over the top of the kneecap.

Fluid over the top of the knee cap

When there is excessive fluid in the soft tissue over the top of the kneecap, this Is often a condition know as pre-patella bursitis - inflammation of a fluid-filled sac (called the bursa) which cushions the top of the kneecap.

Fluid Inside the Knee Joint

If the knee joint is the region with the swelling, we typically diagnose 3 possible causes:

1) acute traumatic injury (a fall)

2) chronic condition (Osteoarthritis)

3) acute condition not related to an injury (gout)

Acute Injuries are those related to trauma and have occurred within the past 24 to 48 hours. This often results in rapid swelling of the knee. Possible indications are usually caused by either a torn knee ligament (ie an ACL tear) or a tearing of the joint cartilage (ie meniscus tear of the knee).

Chronic knee swelling is often a gradual onset of swelling. The swelling can often fluctuate as the symptoms come and go, and are often in relation to age-related degenerative changes - examples below.

Osteoarthritis can cause the body to produce excess fluid in response to the underlying inflammation. People with knee arthritis often notice that the affected knee is larger than the other.

Rheumatoid arthritis, an systemic autoimmune form of arthritis, can cause the same effect. Rheumatoid arthritis will most often affect multiple joints accompanied by a greater persistence of swelling due to the ongoing, underlying systemic inflammation.

Gout is associated with acute painful swelling of a joint which is caused from increased uric acid levels in the blood.

More severe cases not mentioned above can be as a result of infectious synovitis.

All the things mentioned above can cause swelling of the knee. But it is important to find out the exact cause of the swellinTreatment options often comprise of normal conservative management, drainage and anti-inflammatory injection.


Don’t let pain, joint damage, sports injuries or arthritis get in the way of allowing you to do what you want. Schedule a consultation at Dynamic Osteopaths today, and let us treat your injury, provide pain relief and get you back to your full and active lifestyle. We have clinics operating out of Solihull (Henley-In-Arden), Birmingham (Harborne/Edgbaston) & Bromsgrove (Barnt Green).

Call us today 01564 330773

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