All acute and chronic knee injuries should be treated using the P.R.I.C.E. principles (protection, rest, ice, compression & elevation). This should be applied at home as soon as possible after your injury, for at least the first 2 – 3 days.
- Protect your knee injury from further damage. Stop training or playing immediately and apply cold therapy and a compression wrap.
- If appropriate, use knee support or brace while your knee heals.
- If you have suffered a sudden onset acute knee injury such as a knee ligament sprain then complete rest is needed until the acute phase has passed.
- Refrain from exercise and try to reduce the demands of your daily activity to encourage recovery.
- If your injury is long term or chronic then rest may mean modifying your training to allow the injured tissues to heal. For example substitute swimming or running in deep water instead of running.
Your body will heal if you allow it. But continuing to train with an injury is likely to make it worse. If your knee injury becomes chronic it wll be more difficult to recover from.
- Applying ice or cold therapy to your knee injury/swelling can help to reduce pain, inflammaiton and swelling.
- Cold slows down cell metabolism, reducing the chance of the cell dying (cell necrosis).
- It reduces pain. Although applying cold may initially be uncomfortable, or even painful, the cold blocks pain signals from your knee injury. This is known as the pain gait theory.
- The use of compression support or compression bandages to the knee can help reduce swelling.
- Pressure from a compression bandage or knee support helps stop bleeding/knee swelling and helps tissue fluids to dissipate.
- A professional therapist pitchside may immediately apply a firm compression bandage with the aim of preventing swelling in the first place. However, this should be done quickly and only for 10 minutes at a time as restricting blood flow may itself cause tissue damage.
- Keeping the knee elevated above heart level whenever possible will to help reduce swelling due to the effects of gravity.
- If you are on your feet all day then swelling will remain around your knee joint and be unable to drain away as easily.
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