Knee injuries are a common and often frightening injury to everyone from sports participants to average every day people. We slip and fall and usually the first thing we experience is knee pain. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (Website) the knee is one of the most commonly injured body parts. This is not a surprise since it carries a vast portion of our body weight.
The average slip and fall type injury that hurts the knee does not do permanent damage. However, there are many things that need to be done during and after your injury to prevent a lifetime of complications. These quick decisions can save you a lot of pain and frustration down the road.
During Your Injury
The first thing to do after a fall or knee strain is to get into a seated position, provided you have no hip, back or neck injuries. Regardless of how you fell, others may be at risk. If you are laying on your face or back you could sustain far worse injury if someone else falls on you. The other benefit to sitting up is for the next step, you will better be able to further help yourself.
The second thing to do is self check. You should run your fingers and palms all over the knee. Do not press too hard or too light, you need to know if you broke any bones. You will know because either the pain will be unbearable or you will feel the incorrect position of some part of the knee. Within your knee you have a cup shaped area with a disk suspended in it. This is your patella, if it is out of joint you will notice that it is turned sideways or not where you are searching for it. We commonly refer to this as the knee cap. If it is out of joint attempt to hold it as steady as you can until help can arrive. If you call 911, they may assist you in resetting it to avoid swelling. This is a far more frightening process than is warranted since resetting it will make it feel a great deal better.
The final thing to do is to get on your feet. If you fell on ice make sure to get off of the ice to avoid a second injury. Standing up slowly and putting weight on the joint will mentally let you know that you are "ok". A fall can scare and frustrate you, being able to stand and bare weight (even a small amount) means you are able to treat your injury yourself. A doctor should have a look if you are having further trouble but any injury that seems to improve as time moves on is not a permanent injury. Give yourself up to 15 full minuets before you resume your activity.
After Your Injury
The same day as your fall you should ice the injury to prevent any swelling. Most physical therapists will tell you 20 minutes on ice then 20 minutes off of ice. Some will recommend 10 minutes on then 10 minutes rest. Either formula will work but nothing over twenty minutes will do any good. Ice and a small anti inflammatory like aspirin will do an amazing job at reducing your swelling and preventing stiffness. As our bodies age we lose the elasticity of our youth and a common injury or strain can stretch on over days. Preventative care like ice and an anti inflammatory can help reduce the healing time.
For the first week after a knee injury try to avoid any physical strain on your knee. A knee brace or knee sleeve can go a long way in preventing further damage or strain. The worst part of a knee injury is the stretching or slight damage of ligaments and tendons in the knee. This can lead to a ligament or tendon injury down the road that requires surgery. Preventing problems now can avoid surgery later.
Overall your knees are very important, and protection of them should be your top priority. If you find that you fall often, you need to wear an inconspicuous knee brace of some type and watch your step. If you play sports, always remember to wear proper shoes and to stretch. Take care of your knees and they will stay healthy for a long time.