If joint swelling occurs after an injury, apply ice packs to reduce pain and swelling. Raise the swollen joint so that it is higher than your heart, if possible. For example, if your ankle is swollen, lay down with pillows comfortably placed under your foot so that your ankle and leg are slightly raised.
If you have arthritis, follow your health care provider's treatment plan.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider right away if you have joint pain and swelling with a fever.
Also call your health care provider if you have:
Unexplained joint swelling
Joint swelling after an injury
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will examine you. The joint will be closely examined. You will be asked about your joint swelling, such as when it began, how long it has lasted, and whether you have it all the time or only at certain times. You may also be asked what you have tried at home to relieve the swelling.
Tests to diagnose the cause of joint swelling may include:
Physical therapy for muscle and joint rehabilitation may be recommended.
Davis JM III, Moder KG, Hunder GG. History and physical examination of the musculoskeletal system. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, et al., eds. Kelly's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 40.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.