How to Deal with a Knee Sprain

Three Methods:Dealing with a Sprained Knee at HomeUsing Medical Treatments and DrugsIdentifying a Knee Sprain

A sprain is an injury to ligaments that surround joints. Ligaments are tough fibrous bands that connect two bones across joints. They are very strong and stabilize joints during movements and sports activities. There are four ligaments that surround the knee joint and injury to any of these ligaments can cause a knee sprain. Ligaments can be injured when they are overstretched by movements that are not normal for the knee. For example, if you plant your foot and quickly turn at the knee, you may injure knee ligaments. Before you begin dealing with the sprain, it is important that you confirm that you have actually sprained your knee, rather than obtaining some other injury; scroll down to Method 3 for more information about determining whether you have a knee sprain.

Method 1
Dealing with a Sprained Knee at Home

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    Rest your knee for the first 48 hours after injury. Rest is the first and most important measure for knee sprain. Rest will not only decrease pain but can also prevent further injury to the knee. Consider the use of crutches to keep the weight off your injured knee. [1]
    • However, many doctors say that you should actually not keep your injured knee immobile for too long. You can usually start some exercises to help keep your knee joint moving and mobile. Start these as soon as you can tolerate the exercises without them causing too much pain. Talk to your doctor when you are considering starting exercises.
    • Your doctor may advise you to wear a knee brace to keep your knee immobile for few days until the ligaments heal.
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    Ice your knee for two to three days following the injury. Ice application is an effective way of reducing pain and swelling caused by a knee sprain. Ice mainly acts by cooling down that area, which can help to reduce blood flow and inflammation.[2]
    • Do not apply ice directly to the affected knee. Instead wrap it in a plastic bag or cloth and then apply it over the affected knee for 15 to 20 minutes every 4 hours.
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    Compress your knee using a bandage. Compression will reduce swelling and pain. Compression will physically reduce the swelling and enhance blood drainage from that area.[3]
    • Using an elastic bandage, wrap the knee starting from below the knee, and extend the bandage up past the top of the knee. The wrap should not be too tight; otherwise it will cut off circulation to the leg and ankle.
    • Re-wrap the if bandage if it is too tight. Remove the bandage before going to sleep.
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    Elevate your knee above heart level. Knee elevation will reduce swelling around the joint. This is because when your knee is elevated above your heart, it speeds up the blood drainage in that area. This, in turn, will limit the swelling in that area.[4]
    • Use a pillow to elevate your knee while you are sleeping.
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    Avoid heat for the first 72 hours following the injury. Hot baths, saunas, and heat packs should be avoided for 72 hours. Heat has the opposite effect of ice when it comes to blood flow; it actually encourages blood flow rather than slowing it down.[5]
    • However, after 72 hours, no further inflammation is likely to develop and heat may then be soothing to your painful knee.
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    Stay away from alcoholic drinks. Alcoholic drinks can increase bleeding and swelling and decrease healing, so alcohol should be avoided for first 72 hours after a knee sprain occurs.[6]
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    Do not run on your sprained knee. Running may cause further damage. Try walking after two to three days. Stop walking if you feel pain.
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    Don’t massage the knee until 72 hours have passed. A massage may be soothing after 72 hours when inflammation has subsided. However, if you massage your knee before 72 hours has passed, it could increase blood flow to the area and cause swelling.[7]

Method 2
Using Medical Treatments and Drugs

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    Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain. Acetaminophen is used for mild to moderate pain. It is available over the counter and is one of the most common drugs used for knee pain.
    • Take 325 to 650 mg every 4 to 6 hours.[8] Higher doses damage the liver. Patients with liver disease should be monitored for side effects.
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    Use ibuprofen to bring down swelling. Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These drugs work to combat both pain and inflammation.
    • Take 200 to 400 mg orally every 4 to 6 hours.[9] Ibuprofen may cause your stomach to become upset. Patients with ulcer and kidney diseases should avoid NSAIDs.
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    Get a prescription for hydrocodone (Vicodin). Hydrocodone is used for moderate to severe pain, usually in combination with acetaminophen. It belongs to a class of drugs called opioid analgesics which are morphine-like drugs and are powerful painkillers.
    • The common dose is either 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg, depending on the amount of acetaminophen you are taking.[10]
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    See a physiotherapist. Physiotherapy is helpful in maintaining muscle strength during the healing process when activity is limited. Do some light exercise every three to four hours for five to ten minutes.
    • Try walking normal with your heel down first. You can use crutches in the early days after injury to avoid bearing weight on your knee.
    • Lie down and bend and straighten your knee for 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise multiple times in a day.
    • Sit and straighten your legs. Place a small pillow beneath your affected knee and exert pressure downwards for 10 seconds. Repeat this multiple times a day.
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    Wear a knee brace. A knee brace can be very helpful during the healing process as it will prevent unnecessary knee movements and will give stability to your injured joint. However, do not wear the brace for long periods of time, as it may weaken muscles.[11]
    • A knee brace should not be too tight or loose. A tight brace can cut off circulation to your feet and ankles while a loose brace can slide down the knee and be of no use. A simple method to see if you are wearing the brace correctly is to slide down two fingers behind straps. If you are unable to pass two fingers under the straps, then the brace is too tight; loosen the straps. If after passing two fingers you can pass the third finger too, then the brace is too loose; fasten the straps and repeat the two finger method.
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    Know that surgery may be necessary if the ligaments are torn. When ligaments are torn, they do not heal with simple measures. Surgery is the only way to treat torn ligaments. An MRI will decide whether ligaments are only stretched or torn too.[12]
    • Surgery may involve using part of another ligament or tendon to repair the injured ligaments. Tendons are strong fibrous bands, just like ligaments, that anchor muscles to bones.
    • Partial ligament tears can take about three months to heal while complete tears need six months to one year for complete recovery. You should not return to full activity until the ligaments are fully healed.

Method 3
Identifying a Knee Sprain

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    Recognize the symptoms of a knee sprain. The major symptoms of a knee sprain are as follows[13]:
    • A popping sound or feeling at the time of injury can sometimes be heard if a ligament is completely torn.
    • Swelling of your knee. Ligaments are rich in blood supply. When they are injured, they tend to bleed inside the knee resulting in knee swelling. The degree of swelling will depend on the extent of injury to the ligament. Minor injuries will cause minimal swelling while a completely torn ligament can result in significant blood loss and knee swelling.
    • Pain in your knee. Again, the degree of pain may depend on the severity of the knee injury.
    • Tenderness around your knee on touching. This may be mild tenderness over the actual ligament in minor sprains, or more generalized and severe tenderness if a ligament is torn.
    • Restricted knee movements. In complete ligament tears, movement can be severely reduced, whereas in minor sprains, you may have a relatively good amount of knee movement.
    • Limping. Ligaments are vital for knee stability during movements. When ligaments are injured, you may limp when try to walk or run.
    • Bruising around your knee can sometimes appear, although not always. It may take some time for bruising to develop. Bruising is caused by the rupture of small blood vessels just beneath the skin.
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    Understand how knee sprains are diagnosed. Two imaging studies are important for knee sprains: Xray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).[14]
    • X rays: X-rays are done to see whether knee bones are injured or not. A simple knee sprain will not have any bone fracture but with more a severe injury to knee, bones can be fractured too.
    • MRI: An MRI uses magnetic waves to visualize soft tissues of the body. An MRI of the knee will give valuable information about any tear or rupture of ligaments, whether partial or complete.


  • For the first 48 to 72 hours, think of PRICE and no HARM.
    • PRICE: Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation
    • No HARM: Heat, Alcohol, Running, Massage
  • Do not resume full activity until ligaments are fully healed as doing so may cause further injury and delayed healing.
  • During the healing process eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables as they provide essential nutrients for healing process.

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Categories: Feet Knees and Legs