If your knee is swollen then learning how to treat a swollen knee as fast as possible is high on your list of priorities. The most important thing you need to do is to get off the knee as soon as possible. By relieving the pressure caused by supporting your standing weight, you can start to figure out what caused the swelling – and what is the best way to relieve it.
Think about how it happened
While you are working to treat a swollen knee, you need to consider how it happened. Often it is related so some kind of impact injury – falling or wrenching the joint. It could also be related to a food, medication or weather pattern. The more you can try to identify the cause, the better able you will be to prevent it from happening again.
Put ice on the knee
As soon as you notice the swelling you should ice the knee with actual ice, an ice pack or a cold pack. The cold will help the muscles and tissues to relax and release whatever fluid may be building up. It is also your first line of defense in reducing inflammation. Even after the immediate swelling it is recommended that you use ice to help the muscles and tissues to relax, and to numb any pain in the area. Heat won’t help swelling, in fact it can make it worse as it will trigger increased circulation into the area to help try and cool the joint.
Use a compression bandage
You can buy a compression bandage designed to be worn over the knee at most pharmacies and big box retail stores, although they can be cheaper online. A compression bandage increases the massaging motion of the skin that helps the lymph fluid to drain any excess fluid from the tissue cells in the knee area. One thing you don’t want to do is to continue wearing the compression bandage as a form of support if your knee is also weak or hurts. Doing this can make you reliant on the support of the bandage and decrease the rate at which your muscles will heal. It can even cause the muscles to weaken.
Don’t overlook the power of the over the counter anti-inflammatory. Taken early on in a knee injury it can play an important role in the recipe of how to treat a swollen knee. You want to make sure that you follow the directions on the package well; taking too much or too little isn’t going to help you. Your doctor may prescribe a stronger dose of the normal anti-inflammatories as well. They may also have you get a cortisone shot. Cortisone can help relieve swelling and pain in the joints.
Elevate the knee
Raising the knee is a good way to help reduce the swelling. You want to make sure that the knee is raised above the hip level and slightly bent. Don’t prop your knee over a hard object that can compress the arteries and veins that run down the back of your knee. You are trying to relieve load bearing pressure from the joint, and allow for the circulation of blood and lymph fluid to flow more easily around the joint to help clear the excess fluid from the knee area.
Rest, but move the joint too
While you should rest your knee and avoid doing exercises that have a high impact on it, such as running; the new thinking on knee treatment is that you also have to keep the knee engaged in movement. There are several routines that are considered to be the best and easiest exercises to reduce knee pain that also work to reduce swelling. Don’t exercise the knee if it is causing you more pain, you need to also learn how to treat a swollen knee by recognizing when you should have it seen by a doctor.
When should you see your doctor?
If the swelling is not going away, is getting worse, or pain and stiffness are increasing – you should see your doctor. In general, if the swelling has not reduced within 3 to 4 days following all the steps for how to treat a swollen knee then it is time to see you physician. They will be able to determine if there is an issue causing the swelling that cannot be resolved with ice, rest and motion. In some cases, the cause is simple but the extent of the swelling may require that you have the fluid drained from the knee. If you injure your knee and it swells up immediately, you should always see your doctor.
Always see you doctor if the swelling is immediate
If your knee swells immediately after injury you should see your doctor. Immediate swelling can be a symptom of a dislocation, a tear in the tendon, muscle or ligaments, or other internal damage. If the swelling occurs several days after a specific point of injury, you should also see your doctor sooner rather than later. Delayed swelling can indicate that there is also damage to the structure of the knee, but that it is deeper in the tissue.
What if the swelling is chronic, but not painful?
If you are trying to learn how to treat a swollen knee where the swelling is chronic, but not painful; or chronic with pain and stiffness, you should also see your doctor. One of the important things you need to go over with them are any medications that you may be taking, and your lifestyle habits. Edema is a very common side effect of medications and can cause your knee joint to swell. A diet that is high in salt and low in other minerals, as well as other imbalances can also create a fluid retention in the body that is not injury related. As a rule of thumb, if the swelling keeps returning – or it is interrupting your mobility or lowering your quality of life, you should talk to your physician to try and find out the cause of the problem.