Whether you have been for a run, had a fall or it’s just been a long day of standing, redness or swelling in the knee isn’t unusual. However, how do you know if knee swelling is normal or if it’s a cause for concern?
The knee itself is the most commonly injured of all the joints in your body. With ligaments, menisci, bone joints, cartilage, bursae, tendons and muscle, there’s no shortage of parts that can be damaged.
Distinguishing the severity of swelling and other symptoms in your knee is one of the key ways to effectively treat and manage potential issues.
Is knee swelling normal?
Swelling occurs when fluid builds up in various parts of the joint. Known as oedema it can be broadly categorised into two types; tissue swelling and joint swelling.
Tissue swelling is the most common and familiar, which occurs when fluid builds up around the knee muscles, fat and skin. When this happens, it usually causes the knee to look more round, obscuring definition or wobbling with movement.
When the swelling lasts for more than a couple of days, causes noticeable redness or associated pain or numbness, it’s a warning flag to see a doctor.
Joint swelling is somewhat different, with fluid building up inside the joint itself, rarely visible on the surface. This occurs when the knee is more distinctly injured, but can last long after the wound recovers.
When the swelling causes pain, lack of stability or soreness after standing or walking, it’s good to get a scan from your doctor.
In general, when the swelling lasts more than a couple of days or is causing pain or redness, speak to your GP.
How do I take care of knee swelling
While in a perfect world we could see a doctor quickly for each and every issue, time, money and availability make this less than plausible.
Thankfully with swelling being such a common issue, it’s easy to manage it yourself. By taking a few easy steps each time your knee is injured or swollen, you can minimise trips to the doctor.
Putting an ice pack on a swollen area, particularly after exercise, is a great way to alleviate the swelling and reduce pain. Make sure you put the ice on for 20 minutes, off for 20 until it starts to come down.
Compression is one of the best ways to relive knee swelling. Whether it’s some bandages wrapped around the joint or a medical knee support like the GenuTrain Knee Brace, applying constant pressure helps the body to redistribute and reabsorb the fluid.
Keeping the legs elevated at the end of the day or after exercise is a good way to drain fluid out of the knees using gravity. While this isn’t fully effective on its own, combining it with these other methods helps a lot.
4. Gentle exercise
While moving about might seem counterintuitive, low impact exercise like swimming, cycling and walking get the blood and muscles moving and helps to pump the fluid out the knees and regulate the movement in the joint.
Learn more: IT band stretches to improve knee stability.
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