Knee sprains and strains can leave an athlete laid up for days or weeks. If the injury isn't cared for promptly and properly, those weeks can turn into months. Here are a number of tips for treating knee injuries at home to get you back on your feet sooner.
- Handle the swelling. Reducing swelling quickly is important; swelling can obscure the injury, making it difficult to tell where the injury is exactly. Severe swelling will also make an injury worse, and extend recovery time significantly. Ice, elevation, and an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen will take the swelling down. For joint injuries, avoid adding heat as it will only increase the swelling.
- Stabilize the knee. Once the swelling has gone down, apply a knee brace. This will keep things from moving around as the joint heals, and will apply constant pressure to the area.
- Massage. Swelling and immobility cause fluids to get trapped on either side of the knee, which slows healing. With the brace off, gently massage the affected leg from ankle to hip, toward the heart. Avoid putting too much pressure on the knee itself; just slide over it to draw the fluids.
- Baby steps. Trying to force a speedy recovery will only extend the time you spend on your back. Start slow: determine your new comfortable range of motion, and only move your knee within that range. While it is important to keep moving, over extending will make the injury worse. Don't put too much pressure on your leg too soon; use a cane or crutches if you need to.
Don't be afraid to coddle your injury for a couple of days; remember that the sooner you heal, the sooner you can get back in the game.