Joint swelling


In principle, joint swelling can occur in any joint and have a wide variety of causes. The enlargement of the joint can here painless or painful occur and is often already visible from the outside.


A common reason for joint swelling is a trauma in the sense of an injury, as typically occurs in the context of sports accidents. Muscle trauma is often the cause. Since every muscle or tendon attaches to a bone and thus often to a joint, a strain or a tear in the musculature can cause the joint to swell. However, damage to the joint structures can also lead to joint swelling. Here are Bruises and Capsule ruptures to name that the person concerned receives during a trauma. For frequent sports injuries like one meniscus-or Cruciate ligament tear Joint swelling also occurs in many cases. Finally, damage to bony structures can also lead to joint swelling. Tiny cracks make a Inflammatory response caused, as a result of which the Joint space collects more fluid. In the case of the injuries mentioned, it is therefore both possible that a Effusion leads to swelling of the joint, as well as rupture of a vessel in the joint, causing blood to accumulate in the joint.

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The symptoms of joint swelling depend on the cause of the swelling. In principle, joint swelling can occur painful or painless occur and are accompanied by various symptoms. Depending on the joint and the extent of the effusion, the swelling can already be visible from the outside. If there is inflammation, it can be next to the swelling Redness, overheat and fever come. If there is a traumatic cause, it can become obvious depending on the affected structure Restrictions on movement or abnormal mobility.

Joint swelling without pain / with pain

Joint swelling can be accompanied by severe pain or completely painless. The pain can also permanent be present or only when moving of the joint or at burden occur (e.g. in the knee joint when walking / standing). Whether or not there is pain can provide an indication of the cause of the joint swelling. For example, pain usually occurs in the context of inflammation or trauma, but rheumatic diseases or osteoarthritis can also be associated with pain of varying intensity.


Since joint swelling is only a symptom and not an independent disease, therapy is based on the underlying cause. If the joint swelling was caused by trauma, it often helps to protect the joint and e.g. the affected knee / ankle put up. Sports or pain ointments that are common Voltaren Contained as an active ingredient, counteract pain and further swelling. Also one cooling can be useful in these cases. In case of doubt, a doctor should always be consulted in order to rule out bone damage to the joint, which could otherwise lead to permanent damage.

Is the cause of the swollen joint in chronic joint diseases how rheumatism or one arthrosis, this is how these underlying diseases should be treated. Depending on the stage of the disease, drugs are available or it can be with physical therapy and certain exercises for relief are worked. In later stages a operational Therapy and a Joint replacement become necessary.

Localization of the joint swelling

Joint swelling on the finger

Swelling in the finger joints can have different causes. A common cause of finger joint swelling is that Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic polyarthritis, colloquially often "rheumatism"). This mainly affects the base and middle joints of the fingers, which are then swollen and resilient overheated are. Pointing the way is a bilateral, frequently symmetrical involvement of the finger jointswhere the symptoms persist for more than 6 weeks.

Furthermore, swollen finger joints can be caused by reactive arthritis a few weeks after infection with certain bacteria (e.g. intestinal bacteria such as salmonella, shigella) occur.

A arthrosis In addition to large joints such as the knee or hip, it can also affect the fingers and wrists, one speaks of one Polyarthrosis. Formation occurs on the middle and end joints of the fingers hard nodulethat should not be confused with rheumatoid nodules. Another conceivable cause is a Attack of gout, this typically manifests itself in the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe, but can also affect the fingers and wrists. Also a Over leg (Ganglion), a benign soft tissue tumor on the hand, can cause localized swelling. Depending on which structures are compressed by the upper leg, it can become too Pain, Restrictions on movement or Paresthesia (Tingling) come.

Joint swelling on the knee

Since the two knee joints bear almost the entire body weight, they are exposed to great stress. This is often the reason for swelling of the knee joint. Long standing or certain sports like running or jumping, but also Obesity lead to a overload of the structures. Both the bony structures and the surrounding soft tissue including tendons, ligaments and cartilage can be damaged. By tiny little ones Cracks becomes a Inflammatory response caused, as a result of which the Joint space increased liquid collects. The result is joint swelling, which is often visible from the outside.

Similarly, the joint swelling in rheumatoid arthritis ("rheumatism") is caused, but the inflammation is here autoimmune is conditional. If there is an effusion, the entire joint is usually swollen and feels soft to the Kneecap is excessively movable. Also one Bursitis on the knee (Bursitis) can cause swelling. In addition, traumas like a Torn ligament or Broken bones Cause swelling in the knee. In this case, the effusion is often bloody, followed by a bruise (Hematoma) around the knee. Also wear processes as part of a osteoporosis or osteoarthritis can lead to joint swelling in the knee. It can also be used in the context of a gout (Metabolic disease in which uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints) joint swelling can occur.

Joint swelling on the hand

Swelling of the wrist can result from a Wrist fracture which is the most common fracture in adults. With a corresponding anamnesis (course of the accident, e.g. fall), a X-ray image be made to rule out a fracture. Furthermore, the wrist can be affected by chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout or reactive arthritis. Furthermore come a Carpal tunnel syndrome and various Tendon sheath disease (e.g. tendovaginitis stenosans) or connective tissue changes as the cause of wrist swelling.

Joint swelling during menopause

Joint problems are one of the common symptoms during menopause. This is due to the changing concentrations female sex hormones. During pregnancy these ensure that the connective tissue becomes looser, whereas during the menopause they for harder becoming Joint membranes are responsible. Due to increased concentrations of certain messenger substances, it can also inflammation-like Symptoms come. Next to one effusionthat leads to swelling of the joint occur mainly Pain and mobility is often significantly restricted. However, not all joint problems that occur during menopause can be attributed to fluctuating hormone levels. Especially when the symptoms are very severe and last longer, the joints reddened and overheated seem and yourself node and Deformations a doctor should be consulted. Menopause is often also old age, when chronic joint diseases such as osteoarthritis or rheumatism become symptomatic for the first time.


Rheumatoid arthritis (colloquially “rheumatism”) is one chronic, autoimmune Disease of the Joint mucous membranes, Tendon sheaths and Bursa. The disease is typical in burstsIn the course of this, the affected joints are destroyed. By a misdirected immune response the synovial membrane that lines all joints becomes inflamed. This then thickens and produces more synovial fluid, it comes to Joint effusion. The resulting joint swelling is mostly very painful and has one Overextension the joint capsule and ligaments, the joints become unstable. As the inflammation spreads to articular cartilage and bony joint partners, it gradually comes to Deformity of the joints. In addition to the joint swelling is a Tenderness and overheat of the joints characteristic. The most common is the infestation of the finger, hand, elbow, shoulder, knee, ankle and toe joints, which often occurs symmetrically. In theory, however, any joint, including the spine, can be affected by rheumatoid arthritis. About a third of patients have so-called Rheumatoid nodules, small nodules in the area of ​​protruding bones (e.g. on the hand). In the course of the rheumatism attacks, general symptoms such as fever, fatigue and loss of appetite can also occur.

Reactive arthritis due to Salmonella / Shigella / Borrelia / Campylobacter

The reactive arthritis is a condition in which it occurs in response to a infection joint inflammation occurs with certain bacteria. The infection can affect the intestine, for example, and does not take place in the affected joint, so that no pathogens can be detected there. Bacteria that can cause such reactive arthritis are common Salmonella or Shigellathat affect the gastrointestinal tract and cause vomiting and diarrhea. Campylobacter is a common gastrointestinal germ that is also considered to be the cause of reactive arthritis. But also those transmitted by ticks Borreliawho the Lyme disease can trigger arthritis. Arthritis caused by previous intestinal infections by Shigella, Salmonella or Campylobacter are called "Reiter syndrome" or "Reiter's disease". The joint problems occur in 2-3% of cases about 2-6 weeks after the intestinal infection.

The three main symptoms des Reiter's syndrome (Reiter's triad) are next to the arthritis a conjunctivitis or iritis (Conjunctivitis inflammation of the iris) and urethritis (Urethritis). The knee and ankle joints are often affected, and toe, wrist or finger joints are more rarely affected. The diagnosis is made on the basis of the typical anamnesis (previous infection) and typical symptom constellation, as well as a pioneering laboratory. If an infection is still detectable, it will be with Antibiotics treated. Otherwise, symptomatic therapy with NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) is like Ibuprofen or Diclofenac mostly effective. Glucocorticoids can be used in the case of more severe courses and an infestation of the inner eye. Approx. 80% of the courses heal after one year, with more severe courses and certain characteristics in the blood (the detection of certain antigens) it comes to chronification more often.

You can find more information on arthritis here