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 problem 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.


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
  • help you aim for 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.

More about keeping active

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 or other healthcare professional about taking medication or other methods of pain relief​. It's important to take medication regularly.

More about taking painkillers

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 really 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, reduce the strain on your knee by leading with your good leg - if there's a handrail, use it
  • When going downstairs, reduce the strain on your knee by leading with your problem leg - 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

Phone the 111 service as soon as possible if:

  • you have difficulty putting any weight at all on your sore leg
  • your knee becomes immediately swollen after a twisting injury

Speak to a healthcare professional if:

  • your knee locks or gives way
  • you've pain that's worsening

Help and support

If, after following the above advice, your knee problem hasn't improved within 6 weeks a referral to a physiotherapist may be of benefit.

If available in your health board area, the Musculoskeletal (MSK) Helpline can refer you to a healthcare professional if you need it.