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Leaflet: How to Treat Your Injured Knee

Following injury, your knee may be swollen, bruised, painful or stiff. In order to help the natural healing process, follow the advice below.

During the first 3 days
In the first few days, apply a packet of frozen peas wrapped in a damp tea towel to the painful/swollen area. This can be left on for up to 20 minutes, every 2 hours, provided that it is comfortable.
If uncomfortable, remove it as it may cause a burn.
It is important to rest and elevate the leg.
Avoid walking long distances on the injured leg. You may have been given crutches. If so, use them to cut down the weight through the injured leg.

After 3 days
It is essential to start exercising. This will promote healthy healing and prevent future stiffness and weakness. Exercises should be performed slowly, moving into discomfort, but not pain. These can be repeated 5 – 6 times spread through the day.

Exercise 1 – knee straightening overrolled blanket
Sit on a bed or the floor with your knee resting over a rolled blanket or firm cushion. Pull your foot up at the ankle, then straighten the knee by tightening the muscles on the front of your thigh. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower and relax.
Repeat 10 – 20 times.

Exercise 2 – straight knee raising
Remove rolled blanket or cushion used in exercise 1 from under the knee. Pull your foot up at the ankle, push the knee straight and, keeping it straight, lift your leg 12-18 inches off the bed / floor. Hold it for 5 seconds, then lower the leg slowly and relax. Try and perform 10 – 20 times.

Exercise 3 – gentle knee bending
Let your knee bend as far as possible and gently move it backwards and forwards for 3 – 4 minutes.
Try to bend the knee a little further at each session. This can be performed either over the edge of a table or a high chair.
Should any of the exercises or walking cause your knee to swell further, stop the exercises and rest in elevation for a further 1 – 2 days.

Follow the advice given by the Emergency Department or Minor Injury Unit staff and, if given crutches or sticks, use them. Discard when your knee is comfortable when walking without them and please remember to return the crutches/sticks to the Emergency Department or Minor Injury Unit.
If you are concerned about your progress, contact your GP or the Emergency Department that you originally attended.

Returning to sport
Before returning to any sporting activities involving running and twisting and turning at speed, your knee should be free of pain, fully mobile and strong. Depending on how badly your knee is sprained, it may take between 4 – 8 weeks, sometimes longer, to get back to normal.
Activities such as swimming, cycling, weights and step work can be used to help build up the knee initially. When you feel ready, gradually build up your running distance. Where sports such as rugby and football are concerned, join in training sessions before returning to matches.

Pain relief medication
Pain relief medication can help you to reduce the pain allowing you to undertake any suggested exercises and movements of the injury. Moving will help ease the pain and speed up your recovery significantly. Simple pain relief medications such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are often all that is required. Please read the medication instructions before taking anything.

Minor Injury Units
Our minor injury and urgent treatment centres support the local community with urgent minor injuries and/or illnesses. They are led by our specialist emergency nurse practitioners, who are fully trained in both adult and paediatric care.
They are walk-in centres so you don’t need an appointment or a referral – you can just arrive at the centre during opening hours. These centres are not appropriate for life-threatening injuries or serious illnesses.

Bristol Urgent Treatment Centre
Minor injuries and illnesses
Open 8am-8pm, 7 days a week
South Bristol NHS Community Hospital Hengrove Promenade Hengrove,
Bristol BS14 0DE
T: 0300 124 6260

Yate Minor Injury Unit
Minor injuries only
Open 8am-8pm, 7 days a week
Yate West Gate Centre 21 West Walk, Yate BS37 4AX
T: 0300 125 6800

Clevedon Minor Injury Unit
Minor injuries only
Open 8am-8pm,7 days a week
North Somerset Community Hospital Old Street, Clevedon BS21 6BS
T: 01275 546852

Date of creation: March 2021
Date of review: March 2023
URN: 0261