We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more
For more information, go to

Dealing with swollen knees

Q) Both my knees are severely swollen as a result of osteoarthritis, but I am nowhere near ready to have a knee replacement as I can still walk distances and the pain is controllable.

My doctor says that there is nothing that can be done about it, even though I am too embarrassed to swim any longer or to wear a knee length skirt. I understand that acupuncture helps osteoarthritis. Will it get rid of the swelling? Is there any other way of getting rid of it, with or without surgery?
Diana Sandell, via email

A) Osteoarthritis can cause both bony growths, which can distort the knees, and fluid accumulation which can make the knees look and feel swollen. Some people have the bony distortion more than fluid, other people less so.

Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, when they start, are more likely to cause extra fluid in the knees, rather than the extra bone. The fluid comes from the lining of the knee, which is inflamed.

In diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis we often take the fluid off the knee with a needle and inject cortisone to keep the fluid at bay. This can also be done in osteoarthritis if extra fluid is present, but not all cases of osteoarthritis have this extra fluid. In your case, it might be worth having the fluid removed, and the knee injected. Acupuncture can help with pain relief but it is unlikely to help with the swelling.

Back to Self-help, exercise and lifestyle
For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.