How to Care for a Swollen Knee

Having an injured knee can substantially limit your daily activities. And if you’re an athlete, it can sideline you for a good portion of your sport’s season. However, life happens and sometimes, regardless of how careful you are, injuries happen.

If you’ve recently experienced a knee injury and are dealing with swelling, there are certain home remedies to help you care for it. However, we always recommend seeking medical attention to ensure adequate treatment.

Overview of Knee Anatomy

The knee is the central portion of the leg where the thigh bone (femur) meets with the shin bone (the tibia). The round portion of bone at the front of the knee is called the patella. Between these bones, there’s cartilage, all held in place by tendons and ligaments.

An injury to any of these body parts will likely result in knee pain, tenderness, swelling, and a limitation in the leg’s range of motion. If there’s a fracture, you likely won’t be able to bear weight on your knee. If the injury is to the cartilage, you’ll experience pain as you attempt to move the joint.

If the injury is to the tendons, you’ll experience a sharp, shooting pain that radiates to the rest of the leg.

Causes of a Swollen Knee

There are several situations that could cause a swollen knee:

  • Trauma (by a fall, hit, or car accident)
  • Overuse (whether by sports or the nature of your job)
  • Illness (such as rheumatoid arthritis)

Regardless of the reason, the knee will swell due to an accumulation of fluid. The amount of fluid retention will depend on the root cause of the swelling.

Trauma: If the injury was caused by trauma, the fluid will likely be blood. This is called hemarthrosis and requires immediate medical attention. You may also have hematomas (a pooling of blood outside of blood vessels). The severity will vary on the force of impact. If it’s minor, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories will help reduce the symptoms.

Overuse: When the culprit is overuse, the patient is likely experiencing swollen bursa. Bursa are small sacs located in all of the human joints. They are filled with fluid and they act as cushions between bones, muscles, and tendons. Larger joints, such as the knee, has a larger amount of bursa. If your job or sport of choice has you repeating the same type of knee movements over and over, the bursa can become irritated and cause inflammation. This is more likely to happen on your kneecap or the inside of your knee and it will feel warm to the touch.

Illness: Swelling of the joint can occur as a result of rheumatoid arthritis or hemophilia.

Swollen Knee Symptoms

The most obvious sign is when you can see that one knee is larger than the other. Sometimes it’s a slight difference, while other times, it’s severe and alarming. You won’t be able to fully bend or extend your knee, and depending on what caused the swelling, you may experience pain when trying to support your body weight.

It may also change colors, and look red or bruised.

Home Treatments For a Swollen Knee

If the injury is minor, it can be treated at home with rest, icing the area, compression of the knee, and by keeping the leg elevated. But if the injury is more serious, it may require cortisone injections, prescription medications, physical therapy, and possibly require surgery.

Another way to treat knee issues at home is to control your weight. When a person is overweight or obese, the knee joints are going to be under a lot more stress than if they were at a healthy weight. Losing a couple of pounds would (a) lessen some of the strain on your knee joints, and (b) strengthen muscles through exercise.

When to See a Doctor

If the swelling is not reduced by conservative treatment, you’ll need to seek medical attention. Also, visit your doctor right away if in addition to swelling, you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to bear weight on your knee
  • Intense pain
  • Swelling occurred suddenly
  • Popping or cracking sound at the time of injury
  • Serious trauma

Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today

At the Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re experiencing knee swelling, let us help you get back to doing the things you love.

Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.

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