Swelling on the knee has many root causes, and can inhibit function and mobility. It is often referred to as knee effusion or water on the knee by doctors and health professionals.
Common causes of knee swelling are chronic overuse, injury, or even disease.
Below we will be looking at ways in which you can combat knee swelling through supports, medication and other proven methods.
- Support and braces for knee swelling
- Medication to help reduce swelling
- Physical therapy
- R.I.C.E method and other at-home remedies
- When can you expect your knee swelling to go down?
- How to reduce swelling fast
- What causes knee swelling?
Supports and braces to reduce knee swelling
Supports and braces can be used to support an injured knee joint, stabilize, and also provide compression to the area. Both of these assist with the healing process and help to avoid reinjury before the knee is fully repaired.
Supports can even be worn during sport once the injury has healed to give additional support to the area and again prevent reinjury.
There are several different types of knee braces and supports available and each is used for a different reason.
The functional brace gives support to knee joints that have been injured in the past. These are the kinds of supports that can be worn after a major injury is fully healed.
Many athletes use them during sport to prevent further damage from occurring. They act to stabilize the knee and control motion to avoid another injury.
Rehabilitative braces are used for a period of weeks immediately following injury or surgery. They keep the knee joint stable and allow for very limited movement during the healing process.
They are only recommended in very serious cases of injury when the knee needs to be immobilized.
Unloader braces are constructed to relieve pain in people who suffer from arthritis in the knees. They operate by shifting the weight, or unloading it, from the damaged part of the knee to a stronger area.
These types of braces are designed to protect the knee from injury during contact sports like football. They are very popular among athletes.
Knee sleeves are not technically braces, rather a type of knee support and arguably one of the most common.
They are designed to provide compression around the knee joint helping to support the knee and also control pain and swelling.
Related: The finest knee braces for swelling
Medication for knee swelling
Some over-the-counter medications can help to reduce knee pain. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) are available readily at chemists and grocery stores.
Acetaminophen is just used for pain relief, however, ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen also work as an anti-inflammatory.
They belong to a class of medications known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). An anti-inflammatory drug is good to use to relieve knee swelling.
Where medical intervention is necessary, a doctor may prescribe a pain reliever or an oral corticosteroid, such as prednisone.
There are also some steroid medications that can be injected directly into the knee joint. These will also help to reduce inflammation quickly and effectively.
Physical therapy and exercise
Once the injury has had some time to heal, isometric exercises can be undertaken in order to strengthen the muscles that support the knee.
When the muscles around the knee joint are strong they can assist to relieve joint pain and pressure. These exercises can also help to reduce fluid in the knee.
It is a good idea to keep the knee strong as it can be used as a preventative measure against damaging and swelling. There are some exercises that are ideal to maintain strong knees. These include’
- Flexibility training
- Weight training
- Low impact exercise, for example, water aerobics and swimming
Maintaining a healthy weight is also essential in preventing unnecessary wear and tear damage that can lead to a swollen knee.
Methods to quickly reduce swelling in the knee
There are several ways in which you can quickly reduce knee swelling and many of these can be one from the comfort of your own home!
1. R.I.C.E method
The first step in the R.I.C.E method is to rest the knee. It is important to avoid sports and any other weight-based activities for a minimum of 24 hours to give the joint a break and promote healing.
During this time though it is good to gently straighten the knee and flex it multiple times a day. It will help to maintain the range of motion in the knee joint.
The next step is to apply ice to the knee for 15 to 20 minutes every two to four hours. This is done for the first two to three days after the injury occurs.
This helps to control the pain and reduce swelling. A towel should be used between the knee and the ice pack to avoid damaging the skin.
Compression should then be applied to the knee. An elastic bandage or knee sleeve should be wrapped around the knee snuggly to prevent the fluid build-up from getting worse.
The compression should not be applied too tightly as this may cause the swelling to move to the lower leg or foot.
Finally, you need to elevate the leg. This is done by sitting or lying down with the injured leg lifted while applying ice.
The leg can be up on an elevated stool or pillows which will decrease blood flow to the affected knee. It will help to reduce inflammation.
The leg should be elevated higher than heart level. This is the final step in the R.I.C.E method, evidently standing for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
2. Switch to heat
After 72 hours of icing intermittently, you can apply some heat. This can be done in several ways, like taking a warm bath, using a heat pad, or applying a warm towel for 15 to 20 minutes a few times each day.
If the swelling gets worse after the application of heat then it should be stopped immediately.
Massaging the knee can help to drain fluid away from the joint. This can be done at home, giving yourself a gentle massage or you can also get a massage from a professional.
For self-massage, you can choose to apply some lubrication to your knee such as castor oil.
The oil will help the hands easily glide over the knee, and the application of castor oil is known to help reduce pain and inflammation.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take for knee swelling to go down?
Beginning with the R.I.C.E method immediately after a knee injury occurs swelling can often go down in 1 to 3 days.
There are two different types of swelling, and this will dictate how long it will be before the swelling subsides. Acute swelling occurs within 24 hours of the injury. This type of swelling reduces much quicker, within one week.
Swelling that occurs within the first 2 hours then it is probably associated with hemarthrosis and should be checked by a medical professional.
Chronic swelling refers to swelling that occurs over a long period of time and can be difficult for highly active people to detect. If left untreated it can be very detrimental.
If the swelling is chronic or lasts longer than 2 to 3 weeks, professional advice from a medical professional will be required. From here the doctor will be able to recommend medication, exercise or therapy to reduce swelling.
Swelling is the body’s reaction to an injury, so if the swelling is still present then so is the injury. You are not ready to return to physical activity, such as sport until the swelling is completely gone.
You should be able to perform multiple repetitions of the activity that your chosen sport requires. This could be jumping, sprinting, or kicking. There should be no increase in swelling or pain in the injured area when these activities are undertaken.
How do you make swelling go down fast?
As mentioned above there are many courses of action that can be taken to reduce swelling quickly and effectively.
Starting with the R.I.C.E method as soon as possible is the best course of action and can be done at home as soon as the injury occurs. This may take several days, but it is one of the most effective ways to reduce swelling in the knee joint.
If the injury is severe then medical advice should be taken and from here the doctor may recommend prescription medications to help with the inflammation and pain.
A combination of a few courses of action will help to heal the injury much quicker and allow you to return to normal life and activity sooner rather than later.
The most important thing to note is that you should not under any circumstances return to high-impact sport while swelling or pain is still present. This means that the injury is not fully healed and may risk reinjury to the joint.
Why is my knee swollen?
there are several reasons why your knee could be swollen. The most common reason is because of trauma to the joint.
This includes trauma to the bone, ligaments, tendons, bursae, meniscus, or articular cartilage. This can all cause pain and swelling to the area.
When we experience a serious injury it can result in blood flooding the knee joint, leading to significant swelling, warmth, stiffness, and bruising. This condition is known as hemarthrosis and will require urgent medical care.
When the cartilage in the knee joint degenerates over time it can cause n overproduction of joint fluid. This results in knee swelling.
When knee swelling occurs due to conditions such as osteoarthritis then it is typically accompanied by pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the delicate lining of the joints and can result in knee swelling, stiffness, pain, tenderness, and redness. The knee will often feel “spongy” when pressed.
Bursitis is the condition associated with an inflamed bursa. It can cause the knee to fill with excess fluid, causing swelling, or water on the knee. It can make the knee feel squishy, almost like a water balloon.
It can be tender or even painful. The two most common types are prepatellar bursitis and pes anserine bursitis.