Knee injuries can cause pain, swelling, and the feeling that your knee is going to give way (instability). Often it’s the ligaments that are damaged. These are bands of tissue that hold your bones together. You can also hurt other tissues around your knee, such as your cartilage and tendons.
Symptoms of knee injuries
If you have a torn knee ligament, symptoms may include:
- instability – you may feel like your knee is giving way
You may also:
- feel or hear a pop or snap at the time you injure your ligament
- find you can't put your full weight on your leg
If you injure a meniscus in your knee, you may:
- have severe pain and your knee may swell after a few hours
- have a ‘locked’ knee that you can’t move in the usual way
- still be able to walk a little on your leg
If you’ve torn your tendons, you may notice some pain and swelling. You may also find:
- your kneecap is lying higher or lower than it should be
- you won’t be able to lift your knee
If you have prepatellar bursitis, you may have:
- swelling over the front of your kneecap
- pain in your knee that’s worse when you bend it
- difficulty kneeling and walking
- red skin over your knee
If you have an infection, your knee may look red, feel hot and painful. You may also have a high temperature. Always see your GP if you have these symptoms.
If you injure your knee and the pain is mild or moderate or has come on gradually, you can visit your physiotherapist.
Causes of knee injuries
You may injure your knee if:
- you bang your knee so it moves beyond its usual range of movement – this may happen during a fall or if you land awkwardly
- you play a sport such as football that combines running, jumping and stopping with quick changes of direction
- you twist your knee, especially in sports, such as football or basketball
- your knees hit the dashboard in a car accident, which can damage your posterior cruciate ligament
You’re more likely to have a knee ligament injury if:
- you’ve knee osteoarthritis, as this can weaken the muscles around your knee joint, which increases your risk of injury
- you’re not taking precautions when you exercise like not warming up before you do anything active or cooling down afterwards
Self-help for knee injuries
If you injure your knee muscle, ligament or tendon, or the soft tissue surrounding it, Please follow below advices:
- Protect. Protect your injury from further damage. You’ll need to rest immediately after the injury but not for long. Depending on the injury, consider using some form of support or a splint.
- Optimal Loading. Get active sooner rather than later. Start to put weight on your injury and build up your range of movement. Do this gradually and be guided by what feels right for you.
- Ice. Place a cold compress such as a bag of ice or frozen peas, wrapped in a towel onto the painful area. Do this for around 20 minutes every couple of hours for the first two to three days.
- Compression. Compress the injured area using a bandage to help reduce swelling.
- Elevation. Elevate your injury above the level of your heart. Put arm injuries in a sling and rest leg injuries, while sitting or lying on a chair and cushion.
For the first few days after an injury, prevent further damage by avoiding:.
- Heat. Don’t have hot baths, showers or saunas and avoid using heat rubs or packs after an injury.
- Alcohol. Avoid alcohol as it can slow down your recovery and increase your chances of hurting yourself again.
- Running. Don’t run or do other types of moderate activity as this may cause further damage.
- Massage. Massaging the injured area can cause more swelling and bruising, so avoid this for the first day or two.