A swollen knee can occur when there is excess fluid that accumulates in or around the knee joint.
Many doctors will refer to this condition as knee effusion or water on the knee.
Removing some of the fluid will reduce the pain and stiffness associated with the swelling.
Causes of a Swollen Knee
Several problems can cause a swollen knee:
Injuries That Could Lead to Knee Swelling
When your knee joint is damaged, it can cause excess joint fluid to build up. The following are common injuries that cause fluid buildup within the knee joint:
- Torn ligament (Fluid will begin to build up when the ACL is torn.)
- Cartilage (This mainly occurs when the meniscus tears.)
- Overuse of the knee joint
- Broken bones
Serious knee injuries can cause haemarthrosis—blood within a joint—which can lead to significant swelling, warmth, stiffness, and bruising.
Diseases and Conditions That Could Lead to Swollen Knees
- Osteoarthritis: Torn cartilage of the knee joint can cause an overproduction of joint fluid, much like osteoarthritis.
- Rheumatoid: An autoimmune disease, which affects the lining of the joints, can cause the knee to swell, become stiff, and feel tender.
- Gout: This is an accumulation of microscopic uric acid crystals in the joint. Swelling may occur, resulting in severe pain and redness.
Symptoms of a Swollen Knee
- Swelling: The skin around the knee will swell up at a noticeable rate. Compare it to your other knee to see the difference.
- Stiffness: Your ability to straighten or bend your knee fully can be affected if excess fluid builds up.
- Pain: Depending on the root cause of the excess build up, you may experience severe pain in the knee joint, to the point where putting any weight on it will be unbearable.
- Age: The likelihood of developing a swollen knee through arthritis will increase as you get older.
- Sports: Intensive sports that require twisting and bending of the knee increase the risk of knee injuries that cause swelling.
- Obesity: Extra weight can add stress to the knee joint; tissue and joint overload can lead to swelling or a swollen knee.
Complications of a Swollen Knee
- Muscle loss: Excess fluid in the knee can cause muscle weakness in the thighs.
- Baker’s cyst: Excess fluid buildup in the knee can lead to the formation of a Baker’s cyst in the back of the knee—a fluid-filled cyst that results in a bulge behind the knee. You can treat it with an ice compression.
Natural Treatments for Knee Swelling
There are several natural treatments that you can do to reduce the symptoms of knee swelling:
1. Eating properly: Following a nutritious diet can help reduce the knee swelling and support the strength and energy your body has lost from the pain. Include vitamin C-rich foods that are filled with antioxidants, such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries.
2. Rest: The more rest you get, the more time your body has to restore the damaged tissue. If you avoid rest, the recovery time will be delayed.
3. Ice: When your knee begins to swell, apply ice to it immediately. This will help reduce the swelling and your knee will heal quicker.
4. Apple cider vinegar: To reduce the swelling, soak a hand towel in organic apple cider vinegar and place it on the knee.
5. Arnica: This is known to help cure cartilage, connect tissues and bones; it can be taken as a tablet or in the form of tincture. Place arnica ointment on swollen knees twice a day to get rid of the redness.
6. Warm bath: It will relieve the pain once the swelling reduces. You can also place a hot water-bag on the knees or hold a moist towel on the knee for 15 to 20 minutes.
7. Massage: This is another great remedy to reduce the swelling. It can help release endorphins and pain-relieving chemicals while helping to maintain blood circulation around the knee.
Preparing for Your Doctor’s Appointment
If the symptoms of your swollen knee worsen, you will be referred to a specialist. To prepare for your appointment:
- Write down the symptoms and when they began.
- Write down major changes or stressors in your life.
- List any autoimmune diseases that may run in your family.
Questions to Ask the Doctor
Once you have gotten the appointment, it’s essential you ask all the necessary questions:
- What is the cause of these symptoms?
- What sort of tests do I need?
- What types of treatment are available?
- I have several other health conditions—can they be treated together?
Furthermore, in order to get a better view of the knee, you may need to request a certain test, depending on the cause.
- X-ray: An x-ray can help rule out broken or bones, and can determine if you have arthritis.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasounds can determine arthritis and other disorders that may be affecting the tendons or ligaments.
- MRI: An MRI can detect anything that an x-ray misses, such as torn ligaments or torn tissues.
You should never try and diagnose your own injuries. If the natural methods don’t work, or if the swelling continues and the pain becomes severe to the point where no weight can be placed on it, then contact your doctor immediately. The longer the injury is left untreated, the worse the injury can become.