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How do I Treat Knee Damage?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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There are no instructions for treating knee damage that cover all types of injuries because many different things can go awry with the knee. Some of these are very serious and others are mild. Directions to treat a mildly injured knee will differ significantly from those suggestions to treat knee damage that may be more severe.

The principal decision in addressing damage to the knee is determining if an injury needs a doctor’s care. Many injuries cannot be self-treated and require medical intervention. Those forms of knee damage that are less severe typically involve only mild pain and don’t show things like major swelling or significant bruising. People are able to easily bear weight on the knee, though it may be slightly uncomfortable to do so.

With what may be minor knee damage, most people can adopt a wait and watch scenario that incorporates R.I.C.E. This acronym stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. The main goal is to stay off the knee as much as possible, and use ice for 15-20 minutes every three to four hours. Some people benefit from compression on the knee like a stretchy bandage. Finally, elevating the knee above the height of the heart or the head may prove useful too. This last is best accomplished by lying flat and placing the leg on several pillows.

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Should a day of the R.I.C.E. treatment prove unhelpful, or if pain and swelling suggest greater knee damage, the safest treatment is to see a doctor to determine cause of the damage. Sometimes ligaments in the knee become severely stretched or occasionally cartilage in the knee may tear and result in significant pain. Usually, knee damage that presents with symptoms like great pain, inability to bear weight on the knee, popping or clicking noises that results from a knee injury (and weren’t present before it), and significant swelling may suggest greater knee injury. When any of these symptoms are present, it is always important to see a doctor for diagnosis.

Given the variety of injuries that may occur in the knee, treatment may not always be the same. Sometimes doctors will treat knee damage with several more days of the R.I.C.E. method, but they may verify this is the appropriate treatment with x-rays or other scans first. An injured knee could require stabilization too, and sometimes a physician recommends using a brace to keep the knee from moving too much. When tears in the meniscus (cartilage) occur, surgery could be necessary. If a knee has become dislocated, it needs to put back into place, and this also requires a doctor’s care.

It’s clear that treating knee damage is highly dependent on knee injury and its severity. There is no “one size fits all” treatment to address all potential knee injuries. In almost all cases, except when only very minor pain is felt, the best treatment is to get medical help. Given the extraordinary importance of the knee to everyday activities, early treatment is favored so that recovery is quicker and more complete.

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