You Have a Sprained Knee, What Do You Do?

Posted by The Urgency Room on Thursday, January 4, 2018
Updated on: Monday, June 26, 2023
Keywords: Sprained knee knee sprain

Spraining your knee is a painful, disruptive injury that can throw a wrench in your ability to move around normally. Due to the different degrees of knee sprains, it can often be hard for people to recognize whether their knee sprain can be treated at home or if a visit to the doctor is recommended.

To help you through this painful time, we put this post together to provide information on knee sprains and advice on how to get through it. At The Urgency Room, we want to be your destination for excellent medical treatment.

What To Do For A Sprained Knee?

A sprained knee can be as painful as a break, and some who have experienced both would even argue that a sprain is more painful. While time is truly the best thing you can give your sprained knee to heal, there are plenty of ways you can help speed up the process and reduce your discomfort. 

The best way to treat a sprain at home is to follow RICE. This stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Here’s a breakdown to follow the RICE method:

  • Rest: Keep weight off your injured knee as much as possible. Limit your physical activity and avoid lifting heavy objects while you recover.
  • Ice: Apply a cold compress to the injured knee for 10-20 minutes 3-4 times a day. This will reduce swelling, which will reduce discomfort and pain.
  • Compression: Apply an ace bandage to the affected area to stabilize the joint, reduce swelling, and prevent further injury. 
  • Elevate: Prop your knee up to encourage the release of fluid retention. This will help reduce swelling in the joint.

What Does A Sprained Knee Feel Like?

When you have a twisted knee injury, you can expect to feel anything from mild discomfort to significant pain. You’ll likely lose the full range of motion in the joint and be unable to bend or extend your knee as you normally would. You may also feel pressure in the joint as a result of the swelling. Some people only experience minor pressure and discomfort, while others feel significant pain. 

You’ll feel more pain or discomfort when you try to move the knee. It’s also possible you’ll feel a “popping” or “snapping” sensation when the injury occurs. If you’re unsure whether you have a sprain or a break, it’s important to seek medical attention. Schedule a same-day appointment at The Urgency Room.  We will help you understand the severity of your injury immediately and walk you through the best treatment plan for your injury.

What is a Knee Sprain?

A knee sprain occurs when one or more ligaments in your knee are suddenly stretched. If the ligament stretches too much, it can tear, which is a very serious injury that requires surgery most of the time to repair the ligament. Ligaments are tissues that hold bones together. In your knee, ligaments support the knee and keep the joint and bones in the correct position. The bones they hold in place are your femur, tibia, and patella. Your knee has four ligaments that work in unison to structure your knee and allow for movement. A sprain can occur to any of the ligaments. The four ligaments are:

  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)

What Causes a Knee Sprain?

A sudden twisting of the knee joint may cause a knee sprain. This may happen when you run, jump, and land, or stop or change direction suddenly. Knee sprains commonly occur during physical activity but can occasionally happen at other times. Physical activities that place pressure on your knee joints and ligaments are the most likely to cause a sprain. Common activities for knee sprains include football, basketball, hockey, and skiing.

Direct hits to the knee may also cause a sprain. Sprains may be caused by hits to the front, sides, or back of the knee. This type of sprain can happen with an unexpected tumble, bumping into a metal object, wall, or strong piece of furniture. If you fall while your knee is bent, like falling down the stairs or slipping on a piece of ice, a sprain can occur. Car accidents are another situation where knee sprains occur, as your legs are bent while driving or riding in a car.

What Increases My Risk for a Knee Sprain?

There’s no way to completely avoid the possibility of spraining your knee. Sometimes a knee sprain will be unavoidable based on the sharp movement or blow to your knee. Some people are more prone than others, depending on their physical shape and their flexibility. If a person sprains their knee once, they have an increased risk of doing it again. There are some precautions people can take to lower the risk of a knee sprain, including:

  • Wearing sturdy shoes and a knee brace during exercise.
  • Warming up and stretching thoroughly before exercising.
  • Warming down after an exercise.
  • Avoid a sudden increase in exercise. Try gradually ramping up your exercise to avoid placing too much pressure on your knee. I.e., walk, then jog, then sprint.

What Are the Symptoms of a Knee Sprain?

If you sprain your knee, you’ll immediately feel a sharp pain. Sometimes a knee sprain will have a popping sound that you’ll be able to hear or feel. Depending on the severity of the sprain, the pain can be so significant that you’ll struggle to walk or place weight on the affected leg. After the initial sprain, symptoms include:

  • Stiffness or decreased movement
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Giving out of buckling when trying to walk or place weight on the leg

Is It OK To Walk On A Sprained Knee?

Walking on a twisted knee injury shouldn’t damage it further, but you don’t want to overdo it. It’s important to rest your injured knee as much as possible, but as long as bearing weight on the knee doesn’t cause you excessive pain, it’s safe to walk on.

Most people will be able to walk with a bit of a limp on a sprained knee while it recovers. You’ll often be given crutches to help you get around until the swelling and pain dissipate. The important thing is to give your body adequate time to heal. Don’t push yourself to do too much too soon after the injury. Remember to follow RICE and listen to your body.

Should I See a Doctor for a Knee Sprain?

If you suspect you have sprained your knee, try to restrict movement and physical activity. It’s recommended that you ice your knee in 15-20 intervals to combat swelling. Within a day or so of your injury, you’ll have a good idea of how severe your sprain is based on the pain and discomfort you feel trying to move. If the pain is still intense and you’re struggling to move around, you’ll want to see a healthcare provider to determine the severity of the injury and to make sure you didn’t tear one of your knee ligaments. Providers at The Urgency Room can discover the precise nature of your knee injury with an X-ray, or CT scan.

If the pain is subsiding and you believe the sprain to be mild, here are a few home treatments you can deploy to accelerate your recovery time and manage the pain.

  • Take Ibuprofen or aspirin to manage the pain and swelling. Always follow the dosage direction on the bottle. Taking too many can have nasty side effects that will leave you with more problems than the knee sprain you started out with.
  • Compress your knee.
  • Elevate the injured knee to allow for blood flow.
  • Continue to ice every few hours to restrict swelling.

Visit The Urgency Room to Treat Your Knee Sprain

If you suffered a nasty knee sprain or if one of your kids hurt their knee, schedule a visit at The Urgency Room and have one of our experienced physicians and staff treat the injury. We have three convenient locations in Woodbury, Vadnais Heights, and Eagan. We offer same-day appointments so you can avoid spending hours in an ER waiting room. Come see one of our emergency-trained providers today!

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