How Do I Treat a Sprained Knee?

A sprained knee is an injury to one or more of the ligaments.
Pain medication can help with knee pain.
A person wearing a knee brace.
A person with a sprained knee putting on an elastic bandage.
Crutches may be needed to keep weight off of a sprained knee.
Cold compresses relieve the pain and reduce inflammation in sprained knees.
Article Details
  • Written By: Ron Marr
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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While any type of sprain is painful, a knee sprain often requires the most recovery time and rehabilitation. The knee is something of a flimsy joint, and can suffer damage from all sides. If one does have the misfortune to sprain their knee, it is important to take action as soon as possible. The best way to treat a sprained knee consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

When a knee sprain occurs, it is imperative that the joint bear as little weight as possible, lest further damage occur. The sprained knee requires rest, for the tendons and ligaments surrounding it have been stretched and are inflamed. Walking should be avoided if at all possible. If movement is required, it should only be undertaken with the aid of a crutch or cane.

A sprained knee should be treated immediately after the injury, and ice should be applied to reduce inflammation and relieve the pain. A cold pack works best; however, ice placed in a plastic bag or even a towel will be effective. The ice should be applied to the knee at least four times a day. To avoid frostbite, the ice should be removed after a maximum of 20 minutes. After three days of ice therapy, heat should be applied in the same cycle of 20 minutes, for times per day.


During those periods when the knee isn’t being iced or heated, it should be compressed with an elastic bandage or air cast. If using a bandage to treat a sprained knee, one should take special care that it is not so tight as to impede circulation. The idea is to keep the sprained knee immobile, so that the body’s healing process will be accelerated.

A sprained knee should be kept elevated to help decrease swelling. Ideally, one should be lying down, with the leg and knee elevated above the level of the heart. Stacking two or three pillows atop one another, and placing then under the knee, calf, and foot, is an excellent way to treat a sprained knee. In addition, taking an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen will be very helpful, though one should first check with a physician to ascertain the correct dosage.

Once the pain and swelling of a sprained knee have been alleviated, normal function can be regained through rehabilitative exercises. These will normally be provided by a physician or physical therapist. Progress will be slow, as knee sprains do not heal quickly and there is a risk of re-injury. Depending on the severity of the sprain, total rehabilitation time may vary between three weeks and a full year.


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