Uncomfortable and unsightly, a severely swollen knee can be a difficult issue to deal with, since we use our knees each day to walk, move around, and accomplish our everyday tasks. While on the outside of your knee, you may see puffy, enlarged, and swollen tissue, inside there is likely an excessive amount of fluid accumulating around or in your knee joint. Doctors often call this condition an “effusion.”Many different causes can result in a swollen knee. Sometimes, a distended knee may occur due to trauma, such as falling sharply onto one’s knee during physical activity. Other times, the knee’s swelling may be due to repeated overuse injuries, such as running or biking on an already injured knee. An underlying condition or disease can also cause your knee to swell. Ultimately, if the treatments listed in this article do not end up helping your condition, you may have to see a medical professional. Doctors or nurses may end up taking a sample of your knee’s fluid to test for diseases, infections, injuries, or other ailments, hoping eventually to find the root cause of your patellar pain.
This article provides an overview of symptoms associated with a severely swollen knee, several treatment options, and finally, information about when you should see a doctor. If you or a loved one has a severely swollen knee, hopefully, these treatment options can alleviate pain and offer some help.
A swollen knee is commonly associated with engorged, raised, or red flesh around the kneecap area. However, there are many other symptoms associated with it. These generally include:
As mentioned above, a swollen knee wouldn’t be a swollen knee without some distended skin around the knee cap. When you compare the affected knee with your other, you may notice the swollen knee is much larger, puffier, and inflamed.
Your knee can be potentially painful, depending on the underlying cause of the swelling. If the injury is caused by overuse, it can hurt to bend, move, or walk on the knee. However, if there is fluid surrounding the knee, it can even hurt while you’re not putting weight on it because of the pressure of the liquid.
Excess fluid within a knee joint can cause the leg to stiffen up making it difficult for you to bend, straighten, or walk on the knee at all.
If you find yourself with a swollen knee, there are several methods you can use to alleviate your discomfort. These range from simple to advanced, and if you find that the treatments still aren’t working after a few days, you may wish to contact a medical professional at that point and seek further help. Rather than only trying one or two of these methods, it’s important to try several of these approaches in combination with each other to obtain the most effective results. Here are some of the best treatment options you can perform:
Use the RICE Method
One of the most important treatments you can do for a swollen knee is RICE it. The acronym “RICE” stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is a classic method for dealing with knee pain resulting from a swollen knee, minor injuries, or arthritis. The dictum requires you to first rest, keeping your weight off the knee by not walking around on it. Then, apply some ice to reduce the swelling, although many professionals now recommend using frozen vegetables like corn or peas rather than ice. The vegetables offer more flexibility and can wrap themselves around the knee cap for greater give and comfort. Compress the knee with a bandage to keep the blood flow restricted, and finally, elevate your knee on a few pillows while you lay back. This method is the most effective at immediately reducing pain and swelling.
Stay Active & Exercise
Although it’s extremely important to rest—it’s the first letter of RICE, after all—it’s also important not to rest too much. If you stay off your knee for too long, the muscles can start to weaken, and the pain in your joints may worsen. It’s important to balance both relaxing with staying active, and one of the best ways to do this is by developing an exercise regimen. There are lots of different exercises that can strengthen the muscles in and around your knee, such as cardio, stretching, and weight training. Walking, water aerobics, elliptical machines, swimming, and stationary cycling can also all be helpful for strengthening your muscles, easing stiffness, and alleviating knee pain. If you’re unsure which motions are most effective and safest for your condition, always be sure to check with your doctor.
Alternating temperatures can be a lifesaver for both comfort and healing. Right after you injure your knee or notice intense swelling, you should use cold temperatures for the first 48 to 72 hours to ease the pain and decrease your knee’s swelling. Whether it’s a cold pack or a pack of frozen vegetables, you should use the cold for 20 minutes three or four times a day. If you need more pain relief, you can actually use the cold pack as often as you want, as long as you alternate 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. After the first 48- to 72-hour mark is up, you can start to use heat, such as a warm bath, hot towel, or heating pad to loosen the muscle and relieve pain.
Swollen, painful, weakened, and unstable knees can make walking difficult and a fall more likely. A fall can not only cause further knee damage but make it twice as difficult to heal the swelling you’re already dealing with. Instead, avoid chancing a tumble by using handrails on stairs, sturdy ladders and footstools when grabbing hard-to-reach items, ensuring your home is well-lit, and slowing down your walking pace. Some individuals even use walking aids, like canes or crutches, to take stress off the knee. These also ensure you are balanced at all times and can help prevent tumbles. Knee braces can also keep your legs upright and balanced to prevent falls.
Modify Your ShoesAdjusting the fit of your shoes can improve your gait, take the weight off your knee and distribute it to your foot and shoe. To achieve this, consider adding cushioned insoles. They can reduce knee stress and improve your comfort when walking. Also, think about getting shoes with a better grip, as a stickier base can give you greater control over your walk and prevent slips or falls that may worsen your knee’s swollen condition. If you have more advanced osteoarthritis issues in your knee, finding special insoles fit for this condition is ideal, and you may want to talk with your doctor or a physical therapist about the right insoles for you.
Pay Attention to Your Weight
The more weight your knees have to support, the more stressed and swollen they become. That means overweight individuals may have a harder time healing swollen knees. However, losing weight can reduce the amount of stress your knees must endure. This doesn’t even require losing a lot of pounds, though, as smaller increments of weight can still make a massive difference.
Take Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Reducing the pain and swelling can be made much easier by taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like naxopren or ibuprofen. The medications should have instructions on the label which you can follow. These anti-inflammatories can reduce swelling while also decreasing the pain in your knee, which can help you participate in some of the more strenuous treatment plans that involve movement, such as exercising, stretching, or staying active.
A great method for pain relief is acupuncture, a traditional technique of needle insertion used in Chinese medicine. An acupuncturist introduces fine needles, heat, and pressure at specific pressure points throughout the body. The needles relieve pain and release pressure when they are inserted into these nerve-heavy points. This can provide you with temporary pain relief. While acupuncture isn’t one of the easier fixes, as you can’t perform it by yourself in the comfort of your own home, it can provide more lasting benefits of pain relief than other methods. It’s especially effective when used in combination with other procedures, especially the RICE method.
When to See A Doctor
Often, the treatments above are enough to take care of any minor knee swelling. However, if you find that the medications or self-care methods above aren’t relieving the pain and swelling in your knee, seeking further professional medical help is probably a good idea. You also may want to see a doctor if your swollen knee turns red and feels warm or hot to the touch, as this could indicate a more serious problem such a septic arthritis.
There are several methods of treatment for individuals who have a severely swollen knee. The different treatments on the list above are not to be taken in isolation but often performed together. For instance, taking anti-inflammatories, exercising, then employing the RICE method is a surefire way to decrease swelling and ease the pain of your swollen knee. Of course, if your symptoms aren’t going away or your pain is increasing, seeking help from a medical professional may be in your best interest.