How to effectively manage your knee injury

Knee InjuryHave you hurt your knee? The way you deal with a knee injury is vitally important in determining the sort of treatment you’ll need and the amount of time it takes you to recover. Managing your knee injury in the following ways will ensure you are back on your feet quickly, and will help prevent any further injury.

One of the most common parts of the body to be injured, the knee can be damaged through strains, sprains, fractures, meniscus tears and simple overuse. Injuries are usually caused through twisting or a bending force to the knee, or a direct blow from a fall or through sport. The main symptoms of a knee injury are swelling and pain, and treatment varies depending on the type of injury and how severe it is.

What should I do following an injury?

Once you’ve sustained an injury to your knee, the first step is to stop whatever activity you’re doing to prevent any further damage being caused. Rest is essential, so stop doing anything which may be causing you pain.

The best way of managing a knee injury is to follow the RICE system – an acronym which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. These are the four parts of effective treatment for any soft tissue injury. Firstly, make sure you rest properly, using a small pillow underneath your knee. Apply an ice pack or ice wrapped up in a towel as soon as possible, as this will help prevent and minimise swelling. You should leave the ice on for about 10-20 minutes, three times a day.

Things to remember in the first 48 hours

In the first 48 hours after sustaining the injury, avoid hot showers, baths, heat packs or alcohol as these may increase swelling. Between 28 and 72 hours after, if the swelling has reduced, apply heat and do some very gentle exercise to help restore flexibility.

Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage or compressive sleeve to decrease swelling, but avoid wrapping it too tightly as this may cause more swelling underneath the injury. If you being to feel more pain, tingling or numbness, loosen the bandage.

Once you have used compression, elevate the injured area by using pillows and apply ice every time you are sitting or lying down. It’s best to keep the sore area at or above the level of your heart, as this also helps to reduce swelling. Avoid any stress on the sore knee and use a cane or a crutch, if you have one, in the hand opposite the injured knee. Keep weight off the leg as much as you can. You can gently massage the area to relieve pain, but stop if it causes you more pain.

What happens if there are no signs of improvement?

If there are no signs of improvement after a few days, you’ll need to go and see a medical professional for more advice on what to do. It is essential to consult a doctor throughout your treatment and rehabilitation, to ensure the injury is dealt with effectively.

A doctor will examine the knee carefully and ask how the injury occurred, and will also ask for some personal history. They may also send you for further tests such as an MRI scan or X-ray, and in some cases may refer you to an orthopaedic specialist. You may also be seen by a physical therapist or rehabilitation specialist.

Your GP may prescribe anti-inflammatories and painkillers if you are in a lot of pain and if the injury is more serious, may consider giving you cortisone injections.

After your doctor has prescribed the care you require, you will need to continue to look after your knee at home. You may be told to do specific exercises by a physio (that’s us!) in order to strengthen the knee joint. You should use a brace on the knee in order to stabilise the injury and allow you to remain active during your recovery, carrying on with normal everyday tasks as much as possible. Knee sleeves give support for minor sprains, while those with more serious sprains and tears may need a brace with a hinge.

Final things to remember

The last vital step in your recovery is proper rehabilitation, which will include any exercises you have been told to do by a physical therapist. Following their advice will help to rebuild strength and reduce the risk of further injury. Recovery time will depend on the type of injury and how severe it is. A simple sprain or strain lasts around one or two weeks, while more serious injuries may take a month or more.

Make sure you follow all your medical professional’s advice on rest, staying off your feet and avoiding any kind of exercises that will aggravate the injury and slow down recovery. Once you are back on your feet, you can help prevent future knee injuries by maintaining your fitness, wearing the right shoes for sport and training properly. You should wear knee pads and braces if recommended by your doctor and do all your rehabilitation exercises.