Knee injuries are common, especially when you’ve been taking part in sport. Injuries to soft tissues, such as ligaments, cartilage and tendons are the most likely. In some cases, you may need surgery to correct your knee injury. But the good news is that many knee injuries get better with rest and simple treatments you can carry out at home.
There are many different structures inside and outside your knee joint. These include:
• ligaments, which connect your bones together
• articular cartilage, which covers the ends of your shin bone and thigh bone, as well as the back of your kneecap (patella)
• two crescent-shaped cartilage discs called menisci, which act as ‘shock absorbers’ and help to stabilise your knee
• tendons, which connect your muscles to your bone
Injury to your knee can damage any one or more of these structures.
Symptoms of Ligament Tears
The symptoms for most ligament injuries are similar. These include pain, swelling and instability – you may feel like your knee is giving way. You may feel or hear a popping or snapping when the injury happens. You may also find that you can’t put your full weight on the injured leg.
If you injure a meniscus in your knee, you may feel severe pain and it may swell after a few hours. In addition, your knee may ‘lock’ so that you can’t move it in the usual way. You’ll probably still be able to walk a little on your injured leg. If you’ve torn your tendons, as well as pain and swelling you may find that your kneecap is lying higher or lower than it should. You won’t be able to straighten your knee. If you’ve injured your knee and the pain is mild or moderate or has come on gradually, visit your GP. Seek advice if it’s very painful or swollen, giving way, clicking painfully, locking or you can’t put your full weight on it. If you’ve hurt your knee in an accident, are in severe pain, or the knee is severely swollen, go to your nearest A&E department.
Treatment of Ligament Tears
There are different types of treatment that a healthcare professional may suggest, depending on the type and severity of the damage to your knee. It’s frustrating, but it’s important to be patient when recovering from a knee injury – your injury may take time to fully repair itself. You may not be able to do all the things you’re used to doing for some time. Even after your knee injury has recovered, there’s still a risk that you may get arthritis in that knee in the future. This is called post-traumatic or degenerative arthritis. It usually occurs around five to 10 years after the initial injury. After a more severe injury, it can come on more quickly. Different injuries require different rehabilitation, so it’s best to talk to your GP.
There’s a lot you can do to help yourself if you have a knee injury. You should follow the PRICE procedure for any soft tissue injury to your knee. PRICE stands for the following.
• Protect your knee from further harm.
• Rest your knee for the first two to three days, possibly by using crutches. Then reintroduce movement so that your knee doesn’t become stiff and you don’t lose muscle strength.
• Ice the painful area with a cold compress, for example ice or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel. Do this for 20 minutes every two hours during the day for the first two to three days. Don’t apply ice directly to your skin as it can damage it.
• Compress the joint with a simple elastic bandage or elasticated tubular bandage to support the knee and help decrease swelling. Don’t leave the bandage on while you sleep.
• Elevate your knee by resting it above the level of your heart, keeping it supported.
There are certain things you shouldn’t do in the first three days after your injury so you don’t damage your knee further. You can remember these as HARM.
• Heat – don’t take hot baths, showers or saunas, or use a heat pack.
• Alcohol – don’t drink alcohol because it can increase bleeding and swelling in the affected area.
• Running or other forms of exercise – these may cause further damage.
• Massaging the injured knee – this can cause more swelling or bleeding.
For more information on knee ligament tears and the various treatment options please do not hesitate to get in touch with Mr Paliobeis through our appointments page.