Swelling of the knee can be both painful and debilitating. Given we use our knees regularly for mobility and exercise, struggling with a sore knee can put a major damper on your daily activities. Luckily, there are things you can do to help heal your knee swelling and lessen the pain.
What Causes Swelling in the Knee?
Knee swelling can occur for a number of reasons. People most commonly experience a swollen knee after an injury such as blunt trauma or strain. For avid runners or athletes, problems with the knee are likely to develop over time. Here are some of the primary causes of knee swelling.
- Swelling in knee often occurs after a fall, blow to the knee, or any other blunt trauma.
- Overusing the knee through excessive exercise can result in irritation or inflammation in the kneecap, which will cause both pain and swelling to occur.
- For those with arthritis, swelling in the knees is common. Arthritis is caused by the degeneration of cartilage, which results in your bones rubbing directly against other bones. Over time, this can cause inflammation in the joints. For those with arthritis, regular exercise can exacerbate knee inflammation significantly. With Rheumatoid Arthritis, the synovial membrane can become irritated, and it results in excess production of synovial fluid, ultimately leading to pain and swelling.
- Those with runner’s knee may also experience knee swelling after running. Continuous running and exercise puts excessive stress and pressure on the knee joint, which may cause it to swell.
- If you suffer from a sprained knee, then swelling is likely to occur. Sprains are a result of overextending the leg, which can tear or stretch the ligaments.
- Water on the knee will also cause swelling. Water on the knee is a general term that refers to a condition in which excessive quantities of fluid begin to collect around your knee. It can occur through overuse, trauma, or on account of a medical condition or disease. In the event you experience water on the knee, it’s wise to see a doctor right away to ensure your situation isn’t a result of an underlying disease.
Treatments for Knee Pain and Swelling
There are a number of easy ways to treat knee pain from home, so you can find the relief you need, and get back to your busy life. Here are the primary ways to treat a swollen knee.
- Compression is one of the most effective methods of treating a swollen knee. Use a knee brace, medical tape, or an elastic bandage to wrap around your knee. Be sure not to wrap the bandage too tightly as you don’t want to decrease blood circulation. Leave the bandage on throughout the day, and use it for at least the first two to three days as the swelling decreases. Compression will not only reduce swelling, but it will reduce your pain as well.
- Ice the swollen knee regularly. Ice should be applied for at least two days that the injury occurs. Apply ice to the injury for periods of 10 to 15 minutes and at least three times per day. After two days of icing, provided the swelling is gone, begin applying moist heat to the injury several times a day.
- Avoid any physical activity or use of the knee during the time it takes your knee to heal. By continuing to use a swollen knee, you risk exacerbating the injury, which could lead to more serious problems later on. If possible, walk with the aid of crutches to avoid putting any excess stress on the joints. Even in cases of knee injuries without pain, crutches should still be used to help prevent further injury.
- Elevate your knee as much as possible throughout the day. The knee should be elevated at heart level and rested on a soft surface like a pillow.
- Massage the knee throughout the day. If you are struggling with pain, a gentle massage can help to promote blood flow and ease soreness. However, if you find the massage to increase pain, then cease massaging it immediately.
- Light stretching can help to minimize stiffness in the leg and help you heal more quickly. Use a gentle hamstring stretch to help loosen up the muscles. Lie flat on your back in a doorway. Have the uninjured leg lying in the doorway and the injured leg erected up against the wall until your knee is fully flat. Hold this position for at least 1 minute, and do the stretch at least three times per day. Another good stretch is the knee-to-chest stretch. Lie flat on your back and, using your hands, pull your knee into your chest. Be gentle, and don’t force the stretch to a point that it brings you pain. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, and repeat it at least three times every day.
- Take anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking causes restricted blood circulation, which can increase the time it takes for the injury to heal.
When to Visit a Doctor
Though swollen knees can often be treated at home, there are instances where seeking a doctor for professional diagnosis is imperative.
Visit a doctor right away if:
- You find yourself unable to put any weight or pressure on your knee.
- The knee is abnormally swollen.
- You notice any irregularities or apparent deformities in the knee.
- Your knee gives out beneath you.
- You have other symptoms accompanying your swollen knee such as fever or nausea.
- You find yourself unable to extend your knee fully.
- You notice puffiness around the knee, accompanied with excess amounts of fluid beneath the skin.
Swollen knees can impact every aspect of a person’s life. It inhibits their mobility, which can impede their ability to live life as normal. Fortunately, in most situations, a swollen knee is easy to heal. Provided you practice extreme caution and act responsibly during the healing process, your swollen knee should return to normal in just a few days. However, in more severe cases it may be necessary to seek out a doctor for further examination.