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How to Treat a Sprained Knee Injury

by Patty Weasler, RN October 07, 2020 0 Comments

Man wearing knee brace

The right sprained knee treatment can make a major difference during your recovery by improving your range of motion and ability to move. Since a knee sprain is a painful condition that can involve one or more of the knee ligaments, you may need medical care from a physical therapist and doctor. To learn more about your treatment options read on below.

Home Treatments for Sprained Knee

Most mild knee sprains can be treated at home with a few simple treatments. Check out how these four treatments can help minimize your knee pain and bruising to get you back on your feet fast.

RICE

The acronym RICE is one of the mainstays for ligament injuries. It’s simple, yet effective at reducing both swelling and pain.

  • Rest

    The first step to the RICE method is to rest. This means no activities that cause pain and put pressure on your knee joint. Resting can be hard, especially for someone who is always on the go but it’s a crucial step to let your body heal and recover from the knee ligament injury. If you must walk then use crutches or something else that will take the weight off of your knee.

  • Ice

    Icing your injured knee will numb the pain by interrupting the pain signal. The cold will also help reduce swelling by tightening up the blood vessels in the area, lessening the fluid that gets pushed into the tissues. You can ice your knee with an ice pack or with one of these other cold therapy options

  • Compression

    Compression reduces swelling and can give the knee a little bit of stability. You can use an elastic bandage wrap around your knee to provide the compression. When you are using the wrap make sure that you have it tight enough that it is compressing the knee but not so tight that you are restricting blood flow to the area.

  • Elevation

    Elevating your knee is the last piece of the RICE acronym. When you are sitting or laying down, raise your leg up onto a pillow or stack of blankets to elevate it above the level of your heart. This elevation will encourage blood flow return and reduce swelling. 

Exercises

Once the pain has subsided then it is time to get your knee moving, after you’ve been cleared by your doctor of course. Exercise will strengthen the muscles around your knee and help you regain your range of motion. Which exercises you perform and how soon after your injury will be dependent upon the severity of your injury and which knee ligament was involved.

Check out this in-depth resource to learn more about sprained knee exercises.

Medication

There are many over-the-counter medications available to help provide pain relief after you’ve sprained your knee. There’s ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory medication, and acetaminophen, a pain reducer that are both easily found at almost any store. These painkillers can help take the edge off of the pain without making you tired. Always talk to a healthcare provider before you start taking a new medication to avoid any bad side effects.

    Braces

    A knee brace is designed to support the knee to let you resume some of your normal activities without causing further injury. They are easy to put on and take off and can be used numerous times. There are multiple knee braces on the market, like low-level support like knee sleeves to high level hinged knee braces. You’ll need to choose one based on the level of support you need.

    Choosing the Best Knee Brace

      Professional Care

      When you have a moderate to severe knee sprain then you will need medical care to guide you. Below we’ll cover what you can expect from the treatment and recovery process.

      Physical Therapy

      A physical therapist will evaluate your injury and determine which treatments are necessary for your recovery. This can include exercise, stretching, and much more. Their goal will be to help you restore your full range of motion and regain the strength in your leg muscles to move properly without reinjuring your knee. If you need surgery a physical therapist will also help you through the postoperative period to get you back to physical activity. 

        Surgery

        If you have a torn ligament then you will likely need surgery. The surgeon will repair the ligament tears by reattaching the ligaments together or by using a healthy ligament as a graft. After surgery, the recovery time will be several weeks to months and you will need physical therapy to get yourself back to full function. 

          Other Treatments

          Here are two alternative treatments that can be used in combination with other therapies to treat a knee sprain.

          • Platelet-Rich Plasma

            A platelet-rich plasma (PRP) uses the patient’s own blood to provide them with a concentration of platelets that is injected into the injury to accelerate healing. These injections are not for everyone, if it is something that you are interested in, talk to your doctor to discuss the possibilities of using it for your knee injury. 

          • Cortisone injections

            Cortisone injections use steroid medication that is directly injected into the injury to reduce swelling and pain. These injections are done in the doctor’s office and can provide great results for some people. However, there is a limit to how many cortisone injections you can receive and they are not recommended for certain individuals.

            Prevention Tips

            You can’t prevent every knee injury, but there are definitely ways you reduce the likelihood of it happening. Take a look at our best prevention tips to minimize the chances of a serious injury.

            • Warm-up before exercise
            • Wear the right footwear
            • Strengthen your leg muscles
            • Stretch on a regular basis
            • Avoid contact sports like football
            • Wear a brace during physical activity

            Precaution with a Sprained Knee

            A knee sprain is a serious injury that can affect any of the many knee ligaments. If you have suffered a mild sprain then home treatments are a great option to manage the pain and swelling. However, if you have a moderate to severe sprain then you’ll need to seek medical treatment from a healthcare professional. Always talk to your doctor before you begin treatment to ensure that you are on the right path to a fast and successful recovery.

            Sources:

            https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/sprained-knee

            https://www.healthline.com/health/sprained-knee

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            Patty Weasler, RN
            Patty Weasler, RN

            Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.



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