Knee swelling - causes, treatment and effective home remedies

Knee swelling - causes, treatment and effective home remedies

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Swelling in the knee - overview

A careless fall on the knee, and it has happened - the knee swells and hurts. Often the short-term lesion remains. However, the knee swelling can also indicate a serious knee injury, which may result in extreme complications. In addition, numerous underlying diseases can be considered for swelling in the knee area.

  • Definition: Swelling in the knee joint is a joint effusion that occurs when fluid accumulates inside the joint.
  • causes For a thick knee, for example, injuries (from falls, bumps, overloading, etc.), joint wear, inflammation in the knee joint (arthritis) or bursitis.
  • Accompanying symptoms: Other complaints such as knee joint pain, overheating, redness and functional restrictions often occur.
  • Immediate action: In the case of acute injuries, knee swelling can be alleviated or spread can be prevented by using the proven “PECH rule” (pause, ice, compression, high camp).
  • Treatment: Depending on the cause, medication, nutritional measures, medicinal plants and various home remedies are used. In certain cases (e.g. tear of the meniscus) a surgical intervention is necessary to prevent permanent damage to the joint.

Structure and function of the knee joint

The Knee joint (Articualtio genus) is an extremely important task in the human posture and musculoskeletal system. On the one hand, it serves as a flexible connecting piece between the upper and lower leg, where it absorbs shock effects and weight loads. On the other hand, it gives the lower body the mobility and stability it needs for standing, walking, jumping, sitting - in short, for any kind of body movement.

The knee joint is composed of various bony and non-bony elements. Of the Femur (Femur), or its head end forms the upper joint part of the joint, while the Shin (Tibia) forms the lower part. Between these two bony joint sections lies the so-called meniscus - a crescent moon-shaped cartilage mass that acts as a shock absorber between the thigh bone and the shin.

On the front, the knee joint is further removed from the Kneecap (Patella) covered. The triangular bone acts as an additional lever arm for the extensor muscles of the thigh, which gives the knee more mobility. In addition, the knee joint serves as a protective surface for the joint, since it distributes all the force in the area of ​​the knees evenly over the bone parts.

The kneecap, as well as the femur head and the fibula head, are held and connected by numerous tendons and ligaments, which hold the bone parts of the knee joint stable and at the same time freely movable in their position. There are also different muscles like that Extensor (Quadriceps femoris muscle) and the Flexor (Sartorius muscle)which control the respective knee movements.

Definition knee swelling

In view of the essential support and movement function of the knee joint, injuries and illnesses in this area are all the more dangerous. For swelling in particular, there is always a Joint effusion responsible, where fluid accumulates in the knee. There are three types of knee swelling:

  1. Hemarthrosis - The swelling is caused by the accumulation of blood in the knee joint, which results from open wounds, such as injured vessels.
  2. Hydathros - A build-up of synovial fluid is the reason for the big knee. The fluid comes from the cavity behind the joint capsule that envelops the head ends of the knee joint.
  3. Pyarthros - The knee swelling is triggered by the accumulation of pus in the joint, which forms among other things in the course of inflammatory processes and poorly healing wounds.

Regardless of the type of fluid accumulation, swellings on the knee joint, especially if long-lasting and associated with other accompanying complaints such as knee pain, overheating and redness, often indicate a serious one Damage to the joint substance there.

A detailed diagnosis is extremely important in such a case in order not to risk permanent loss of function of the knees. The exact trigger of the swelling can often only be determined with the aid of imaging measures. Because the structure of the knee joint is complex and the cause of the complaint is not always found immediately.

Injury to the knee as the main cause

The most easily identifiable cause of a swollen knee are injuries of any kind in the area of ​​the knee joint. They can occur at any age and with any activity and are more or less dangerous depending on the actual force exerted on the knee. Slight bumps, like most twists or contortions caused by slipping away, are usually not cause for concern. In such a case, the swelling can usually be described as a light hydathros if the joint capsule was damaged in the course of the injury.

On the other hand, knee swellings can become more problematic if they are associated with falls from great heights or very unfavorable angles of fall. In addition to extensive accumulations of synovial fluid, this can also result in bloody hematoses. If there are also inflammatory processes in the area of ​​the joint injury, pyathros cannot be ruled out. Overall, the following knee injuries often lead to swelling:

  • Falls (e.g. from the stairs or during sports)
  • Knee twisted by sliding away (e.g. on wet lawn)
  • Bumps (e.g. due to work or household accidents)
  • blunt, external force (e.g. in the context of physical disputes)
  • Lesions due to brief overload
  • Ligament strains, strains and tears
  • Meniscus damage

Swelling in the knee area due to joint wear

Another very common cause is arthrosis. Behind the term is stress-related joint wear, which is quite normal in old age, but can also occur at a young age if the lifestyle is unsuitable for everyday life. In the course of age-related arthrosis, wear and tear occurs due to the natural degradation processes of the joint substance. As a result, the joint capsule is usually damaged, so that more synovial fluid escapes and can collect freely in the knee.

In the case of premature knee osteoarthritis, however, permanent overuse of the knee joints is usually responsible for the signs of wear. In the long term, the unnatural stress leads to a gradual decrease in the cartilage tissue that protects the bone ends. All in all, the following influencing factors come into question as causes for the joint wear.

  • signs of wear due to age (Degeneration)
  • persistent, heavy and knee-strain work (e.g. heavy lifting)
  • excessive, knee-stressing sports (e.g. jogging or sprinting)
  • Misalignment of the knee jointe (e.g. by X-legs or bow legs)
  • persistent incorrect loads (e.g. due to overweight or wrong shoes)
  • repeated or poorly healed knee injuries

In addition to swelling, osteoarthritis is associated with restricted mobility of the knees and posture problems. In addition, the progressive decline in cartilage tissue ensures that the bone ends rub more and more (unsprung) against each other, which leads to severe movement pain. The permanent mechanical irritation also means that inflammation and joint effusion are more common, which in turn leads to repeated knee swelling.

Interesting facts: According to the German Osteoarthritis Aid, around 5 million people in Germany suffer from arthrosis. The disease is one of the most common causes of knee problems of any kind.

Knee swelling due to inflammation of the joints

Another knee joint disease is often mistaken for osteoarthritis: the arthritis. Unlike joint wear, arthritis is an inflammation that occurs alongside other body joints (e.g. shoulder, toe, foot, finger and wrist joints) can also occur in the knee joint and, unlike osteoarthritis, rather suddenly, i.e. occurs acutely instead of manifesting over a longer period of time. Medicine distinguishes them infectious arthritis of non-infectious disease courses, such as those caused by the Rheumatoid arthritis be put.

Infectious arthritis

With arthritis, infectious courses can either result directly from existing wound wounds on the knee, or trigger an inflammatory subsequent infection in the knee through germ distribution via the bloodstream. The number of possible infectious agents is very diverse and includes:

  • bacteria (e.g. streptococci, staphylococci, tuberculosis and borreliosis bacteria)
  • Viruses (e.g. hepatitis, measles, mumps and rubella viruses)
  • Mushrooms (e.g. Candida mushrooms)

In infectious arthritis, the swelling shows a clear spread of pathogens in the knee. Purulent courses are not uncommon. If the infection is not remedied promptly, irreparable damage to the joint substance can also occur, the soft cartilage mass of the meniscus and the joint capsule being particularly at risk.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (also called chronic polyarthritis) is the most common cause of non-infectious joint inflammation and belongs to the group of autoimmune diseases. The causes of this have not yet been fully elucidated, but it is known that a defective immune system leads to destruction processes in the body's own tissue. The autoimmune process causes increased immigration of misdirected immune cells into the joints, which produce inflammatory messenger substances there. As a result, there is an overgrowth of the inner skin of the joint, which in turn leads to a breakdown of the surrounding structures (Cartilage, bones, ligaments) leads.

Rheumatoid arthritis is particularly common between the ages of 40 and 60. But it can also arise in childhood and is then called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis designated. In addition, autoimmune diseases are often associated, that is, the person affected often suffers from several diseases from the autoimmune disease group. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the risk of developing another autoimmune disease that affects another organ system is particularly high. It is therefore advisable to also check for other autoimmune-induced diseases during diagnosis, including:

  • Intestinal diseases (Chron's disease, ulcerative colitis, gluten allergy or celiac disease)
  • Skin diseases (Psoriasis, lupus erythematosus)
  • Thyroid disease (Hashimoto's thyroiditis)
  • Lung diseases (Sarcoidosis)

Other arthritis

In addition to arthritis, an inflamed knee can also be caused by an inflammation Bursitis (Bursitis) are caused. The causes for this range from pre-infections to injuries to persistent overloading of the knees. Especially knee-heavy sports such as wrestling, kickboxing and ice hockey, in which there are constant body checks that require a firm footing, pose a high risk of bursitis.

One cannot be ruled out either Tendinitis as the reason for inflammatory knee swelling. If it is triggered by existing medical conditions, one speaks of one here Tendinitis. However, injury and overuse scenarios are also conceivable as a cause.

Swollen knee due to gout

Gout belongs to the group of metabolic disorders and describes chronic disorders in the area of ​​uric acid metabolism. Due to illness, there is an increase in uric acid in the blood, which the body first tries to compensate for by the increased formation of uric acid crystals. The crystals are then mainly deposited in distant joints such as toes, fingers or knee joints.

If a lot of uric acid crystals are stored in the joints during an episode of illness, for example after a lavish meal or excessive alcohol consumption, a so-called gout attack occurs, which manifests itself in swelling, redness and pain in the joint concerned. The major toe joint is most often affected by an acute gout attack. Such attacks can also cause enormous swellings in the knee joints.

Swollen knee diagnosis

Usually the swelling in the knee itself can be determined by simply diagnosing the eye. In most cases, further investigation measures are necessary for the cause research. A medical history of existing eating habits, leisure and professional activities as well as possible accident scenarios in the recent past can already help to substantiate a first suspicion. Existing medical conditions should also be mentioned in order to clarify any infectious or rheumatoid courses.

Imaging procedures such as magnetic resonance therapy are usually used after the patient survey (MRI) or X-ray, which can be used to visualize degeneration processes and joint injuries. Tendon, cartilage and capsule tears can also be represented so well. In order to be able to determine the fluid accumulation in the knee more precisely, doctors usually also perform a knee puncture. If necessary, a blood test is carried out to find possible inflammation markers, autoantibodies or signs of rheumatism.

Therapy for knee swelling

The treatment measures for knee swellings naturally depend on the causes and can therefore be designed very differently. Nevertheless, a swollen knee is always accompanied by pain and a functional impairment, which is why you cannot go wrong if you take the acute measure of a swelling that occurs PECH rule holds. This says the following:

  • P for break: In order to protect the knee and minimize the strain on the joint, sports activities should be stopped immediately in the course of a swelling-promoting process. In principle, the knee can be given a temporary break in the event of swelling. This means that movements and weight loads should only take place in an emergency.
  • E for ice: The effects of cold can prevent swelling from spreading and reduce inflammation. The occurrence of bruises can also be successfully prevented. Because of the low temperatures, the vessels narrow, which prevents tissue fluid from escaping and also retains messenger substances that promote inflammation and swelling. In addition, cooling treatment can temporarily reduce pain.
  • C for compression: External pressure, for example from an elastic bandage or a fabric splint, can also minimize the spread of the swelling. In addition, a bandage does not help to put too much strain on the damaged knee joint. It is therefore best to apply a compression bandage.
  • H for high camps: The elevation of the knee activates the lymphatic system. This can further reduce swelling, since fluids that have entered the joint (e.g. blood and tissue fluid) can be better removed.

Please note: The method described above is only for quick self-help. In the case of minor injuries, such as a slight twisting of the knee joint, it is often sufficient to do this for a few hours. If, however, there are big knees without an externally recognizable reason, cause severe pain and non-abating functional restrictions, the complaints always belong to medical care.

Medical therapy

Minor injuries without loss of function can be treated well with pain relievers. They are often used in tablet or ointment form as acute therapy. Voltaren or diclofenac, for example, but also paracetamol or ibuprofen are used.

Medicines for arthrosis and arthritis:
Pain relievers are also used for osteoarthritis and arthritis. On the one hand, they are intended to reduce severe pain spikes, on the other hand, they also protect against further incorrect stress and reduce possible inflammation. Infectious arthritis also uses drugs that fight the pathogens. For example, therapeutic measures in the form of antibiotic therapy are conceivable.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is often treated with preparations containing cortisone, as these inhibit the inflammatory reaction and the progression of joint destruction. In particularly severe cases, the active ingredients are then injected directly into the joint using special injection techniques.

The early form of osteoarthritis can be slowed down by hyaloron injections. Hyaloronic acid is needed by the body to build up cartilage mass. However, hyaloronic acid can only have an effect if there is still sufficient body cartilage in the joint.

Medicines for gout:
The acute treatment of a gout attack also aims to reduce pain, which is why anti-inflammatory and analgesic preparations are used. Long-term treatment is about keeping uric acid levels low. This happens sometimes by changing the diet, but can be further supported by the permanent administration of drugs such as allopurinol, which keep the uric acid level low.

Nutritional measures

The diet for gout to avoid acute seizures and thus increased joint swelling primarily provides for a reduction in foods that increase uric acid production in the body. These include animal foods with a high purine content, such as those from fatty fish, dairy products (e.g. butter, yogurt, cheese and of course milk), Eggs, offal, poultry, geese and pork.

But there are also numerous products containing purine in the area of ​​plant-based foods. From yeast products to legumes such as peas, beans and lentils, to cabbage, rhubarb, asparagus and spinach, various foods should be enjoyed with caution here. Furthermore, you should avoid heavy alcohol consumption if you want to keep uric acid levels as low as possible. With regard to yeast products, it is advisable to avoid drinking beer.

In order to strengthen the joints and keep them fit, certain nutrients are of particular importance. For example, in the case of food oils, one should use virgin olive oil, since it contains vitamin E, which is extremely valuable for the joints. Whole grain products also help with their numerous minerals and trace elements are beneficial for the knee.

If obesity has led to increased stress on the knees and the associated knee problems, proper nutrition to reduce body weight is naturally also at the top of the list. The less the knees are stressed by excessive pounds, the more it can be burdened by the demands of everyday life and stress-induced swellings can be avoided.

Overall, with swellings on the knee joint, regardless of whether due to illness or injury, a low-fat and sugar-free diet is recommended, which contains few animal products, but all the more fruit, safe vegetables and hydration.

Home remedies and lifestyle changes

In addition to the PECH rule already described above, other private measures can also be carried out if the knees are swollen. The cooling and compression treatment can be expanded, for example, with cabbage wraps. Regardless of whether it is osteoarthritis, arthritis or a sports injury, a pad with fresh, soft-knocked white cabbage or savoy cabbage on the affected knee has an anti-inflammatory and decongestant effect, as well as relieving pain, removing toxins and promoting mobility.

Tip: The cabbage wraps can also be used from time to time, for example after work, for a longer period of time. Because the good thing about this home remedy is that its effects do not subside and you cannot overdose.

Other self-help measures that can be taken to alleviate the symptoms include moderate physical activity, because strong muscles support the joints. However, the movement units should not take place, but should only take place after the acute phase, since the tissue pressure is still too high immediately after swelling has arisen. The treatment, as well as the prevention of knee swellings, also has a positive effect on not using tobacco. The substances contained in tobacco (especially nicotine) are suspected to fire rheumatoid arthritis.

Medicinal treatment

Comfrey is particularly recommended in the field of medicinal herbs. The plant did not get its name for nothing, because it is famous for its healing properties for all forms of health problems in the leg area. Comfrey can even reliably heal broken bones. When it comes to a swollen knee, the ingredients of the medicinal herb have a decongestant effect, promote wound healing and anti-inflammatory. Comfrey is best used as an additive for envelopes or as a medicinal ointment available in any pharmacy.

Another medicinal plant that is often used for knee problems and general joint problems and sports injuries of any kind is the arnica. It has an analgesic, decongestant and anti-inflammatory effect and, like comfrey, can be used locally as an ointment or poultice. Spruce, camphor, jaws and devil's claw are also recommended for those with a thick knee.

Operative measures

If drug therapy and the use of nutritional measures, medicinal plants and home remedies are not sufficient, surgery for knee swelling is often the last solution to save the joint from permanent damage. In the case of ligament ruptures or meniscal tears, the question of the need for an operation often does not arise. Since these structures are currently under tension in the area of ​​the knee joint, they will not grow together again by immobilization and pain relief alone, as is the case with some broken bones, for example. Careful surgical fixation of the joint elements must take place here.

The drainage of wound fluid must also be carried out surgically with the aid of a drainage. The purpose of this is to take the swelling pressure off the affected knee joint. This is particularly necessary in the event of extensive co-injury to blood vessels and extreme accumulation of pus or tissue fluid. Otherwise there could be a supply shortage of the vessels due to pressure-related blockages.

In the case of sports injuries as the cause, surgical treatment aims to restore the original intact condition, even if this goal cannot always be achieved. Osteoarthritis and arthritis patients also come to the point of having to think about an operation as a result of the progressing disease process. However, the surgery is no longer aimed at restoring the original condition. Rather, the aim is to contain pain caused by joint destruction or to replace damaged joints with the use of prostheses.

Health problems with knee swelling: Knee injuries, dislocation of the knee joint, falls, bumps, sprains, violence, meniscus damage, arthrosis, arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, tendon strain, tendon tear, gout. (ma)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Michael Hammer: Rheumatoid Arthritis (chronic polyarthritis), Deutsche Rheuma-Liga Bundesverband e.V., (accessed August 28, 2019), Rheumatism League
  • Danielle Campagne: Injuries to the Knee Extension Mechanism, MSD Manual, (accessed 8/28/2019), MSD
  • Kay Bartrow: Knee weak point: Targeted practice for pain, injuries and arthrosis, Trias Verlag, 2015
  • Detmar Jobst, Martin Mücke: Knee pain with osteoarthritis signs, DEGAM S1 recommendation for action, German Society for General Medicine and Family Medicine (DEGAM), (accessed 28.08.2019), AWMF

Video: Get Rid Of Knee Pain and Swelling Naturally Fast At Night Home Remedy to Relieve Knee Pain Quickly (September 2022).


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