Q+A: Why does my knee swell every 13 days?

Our experts answer real-life questions


Posted: 9 September 2000
by Greg Ryan

Q It’s strange, but my right knee swells up, particularly on the lateral side, every 13 days. It lasts for three days before returning to normal. When swollen, the knee is tight and uncomfortable, but not painful. What’s going on?

A This is certainly an unusual set of symptoms. First of all it is vital to establish if the swelling is within the joint itself or in the superficial tissues. The fact that it swells on the lateral side, and not the whole joint, implies the latter, which is the better of the two. The problem could be that your lateral ligament, or iliotibial band, is being overloaded. If so, it could certainly be a biomechanical problem. You should, therefore, have your running style and biomechanics assessed.

The really intriguing thing, though, is this 13-day cycle of symptoms that you have noticed. There is no cycle in the body that I can think of that follows this pattern – neither tissue turnover nor hormone output. It is, I think, more likely to be caused by something in your exercise routine. I suggest that you keep a detailed diary of your exercise regime, noting distance, time and route for all your runs, and the duration and specifics of any other training you do – whether in the gym, the pool or on a bike. Keep this up for at least six weeks and your 13-day cycle may well be revealed. Armed with this, your physiotherapist will find it easier to treat the underlying cause of your problem.

Greg Ryan, chartered physiotherapist, Medifix


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I'm having the same problem for 5 years in my left knee and about 15 years ago had it for 8 years in my right knee.  A synovectomy of the right knee stopped it. It swells every 13-15 days except for 6 months after a cortisone shot.  Does anyone else have this problem? Did the person who asked the question below ever find out what caused his problem?

Q+A: Why does my knee swell every 13 days?
By Greg Ryan

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<!-- recurring injury CYCLING KNEE --> <!-- Title: Q+A: Why does my knee swell every 13 days? Standfirst: Our experts answer real-life questions Author: UAN: RW issue: jul02 Keywords: knee -->

Q It’s strange, but my right knee swells up, particularly on the lateral side, every 13 days. It lasts for three days before returning to normal. When swollen, the knee is tight and uncomfortable, but not painful. What’s going on?

A This is certainly an unusual set of symptoms. First of all it is vital to establish if the swelling is within the joint itself or in the superficial tissues. The fact that it swells on the lateral side, and not the whole joint, implies the latter, which is the better of the two. The problem could be that your lateral ligament, or iliotibial band, is being overloaded. If so, it could certainly be a biomechanical problem. You should, therefore, have your running style and biomechanics assessed.

The really intriguing thing, though, is this 13-day cycle of symptoms that you have noticed. There is no cycle in the body that I can think of that follows this pattern – neither tissue turnover nor hormone output. It is, I think, more likely to be caused by something in your exercise routine. I suggest that you keep a detailed diary of your exercise regime, noting distance, time and route for all your runs, and the duration and specifics of any other training you do – whether in the gym, the pool or on a bike. Keep this up for at least six weeks and your 13-day cycle may well be revealed. Armed with this, your physiotherapist will find it easier to treat the underlying cause of your problem.

Greg Ryan, chartered physiotherapist, Medifix


Posted: 09/10/2007 at 19:35

Did the person with the swollen knee every 13 days without pain... find out what the problem was?
Posted: 27/05/2011 at 05:44

The reason why it swells up could be due to the weak ligaments.

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Posted: 27/05/2011 at 12:31

I have been struggling with this same thing for over a year now.  My right knee swells every 13 days.  Lasts about 4 days.  It's swollen and tight thus difficult to bend, walk, etc. but there truly is no pain.  Had 2 cortosone shots - one worked, one didn't.  Have never had any knee problems - no surgeries or injuries of any sort.  Had an MRI - nothing.  Had tons of bloodwork.  Nothing.  Anyone have any ideas?
Posted: 17/10/2011 at 02:50

I've had similar symptoms for over 40 years. I had recurrent swelling in my right knee for about 15 years, then it went into remission for 5 years or so, then recurred in my left knee. It has since gone into remission once or twice for a year or so at a time. It occurs every 13 days and is preceded by malaise, very low fever and diarrhea. Nothing shows up in the blood or urine, and there has been no injury or stress to the joints, suggesting that this in an autoimmune issue triggered by something: food allergy, infection, etc. I can be contacted at mkaplan22 (at) gmail (dot) com
Posted: 03/05/2012 at 05:04

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