How Do I Know If My Knee Injury Is Serious?

The moments right after a knee injury are crucial in determining your outcomes and proper healing. Step one is determining if the knee injury is serious and requires further medical attention. Whether it’s a minor or significant knee injury that occurred, knowing how to identify and effectively treat each type is critical. If you ever have doubts or concerns, do not hesitate to seek the advice of a doctor.

Types of Knee Injuries and Their Symptoms

Several types of knee injuries can occur during sports, recreational activities, and everyday life. The severity of the damage will depend on the type of injury and the part of the knee it has impacted. The most common knee injuries include the following.

Knee Sprains

A knee sprain is a knee injury that occurs when the ligaments within the knee are overstretched or torn completely. A knee sprain is one of the more common knee injuries and ranges from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the damage done to the ligaments and surrounding knee. A sprained knee will typically result in localized pain, swelling, and mild stiffness.

Knee Strains

A knee sprain is a knee injury resulting from the overstretching or tearing of the tendons or muscles in the knee. A knee strain can also range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the muscle or tendons. Like a knee sprain, expect to feel pain, swelling, and stiffness. These similarities make it hard to differentiate a strain from a sprain at first look; however, a doctor will be able to diagnose the correct injury.

Knee Tears

A knee tear can be serious and may require surgery to ensure the injury heals properly. The common symptoms of a knee tear include swelling, stiffness, and difficulty moving the knee and leg. The difference is that, in some cases, a popping or snapping sensation may be experienced upon injury.

While some symptoms of a knee injury can overlap among other similar injuries, they can vary greatly depending on the severity of the damage and whether or not the person has a history of knee injuries or weakness. As seen above, the common symptoms of many knee injuries include pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty moving the knee. Due to this overlap, in injuries that seem severe, a doctor should be contacted to evaluate the knee.

It is also important to rest and ice the knee and avoid putting weight on it until you can determine the severity of the injury to prevent further injury. Contact your doctor immediately if the pain worsens, the swelling will not go down, or the knee becomes completely stiff.

Factors Affecting the Severity of Knee Injuries

The severity of an injury is based on several factors. These include the type of injury, its location, as well as the age and health of the person who suffers the injury. External factors that can affect the severity of a knee injury include how fast the injury is treated and the person’s lifestyle (i.e., whether this person works a manual job or insists on running or exercising post-injury).

Recognizing when a knee injury is mild enough to be treated at home and when further medical attention is required is essential. If neglected, what was once a mild to moderate injury can develop into a severe injury due to improper care and healing. This is why contacting a doctor is a good idea, even if the injury does not seem severe enough to warrant medical attention.

When to Seek Medical Attention for a Knee Injury

white backdrop with a stethoscope and medical items

While some minor injuries can be treated with rest and ice, there are many cases where you should consult a doctor after experiencing a knee injury. Firstly, seek medical attention immediately if the knee is visibly deformed or out of place. If you notice a popping or cracking sound when moving the knee, this also warrants concern.

The only instances where it may not be necessary to seek any medical assistance is if the knee injury reacts well to home remedies such as icing and rest, and a gradual relief of symptoms ensues over the next 24 hours. Otherwise, to avoid further damage, call your doctor at the minimum. Also note that for those who have previously experienced serious knee injuries, you should notify your doctor even for less severe re-injury.

Treatments for Knee Injuries

The way in which knee injuries are treated varies depending on multiple factors. Here are the most common treatments that can be performed at home or through your doctor or a medical provider.

Home Remedies

If an injury is not severe enough to require medical attention, home remedies are the best way to aid healing and pain relief after a knee injury.

I. Icing & Heat

In general, ice is applied during the initial stage of an injury. Ice helps reduce blood flow and swelling and can numb the affected area, helping to alleviate pain. Ice should be applied for no more than 15 mins at a time.

Heat is typically used later in the healing process when the injured area has stabilized, and swelling and inflammation have decreased. Applying heat helps improve circulation, which can promote healing and reduce stiffness, allowing for more mobility.

Note that the excessive use of ice and heat is not recommended, as it can worsen the injury.

II. Proper Rest

Not only is rest important for our daily functions, but it is also a critical step in the healing process. Proper rest cannot be overlooked whether home or medical remedies are used. Aim to get 8+ hours of sleep every night and avoid putting pressure on the knee for the first 48 to 72 hours post-injury.

Medical Treatments

When knee injuries fall into the moderate to severe category, it is recommended to seek medical attention. The treatments available range from knee braces to physical therapy, and each is effective in its own way for specific injuries.

I. Unloader Knee Braces

For all knee injuries, keeping weight off the joint and affected areas is vital. Unloader knee braces are an excellent solution to this issue. Once the first 48 to 72 hours have passed since the injury took place, it is recommended to use a knee brace to help promote healing and avoid further injury.

We recommend the Ascender Unloader knee brace, a multi-compartmental unloading knee brace that is custom-built to order, ensuring that each patient receives the comfort and support that they need to heal correctly and get back to their day-to-day life uninjured!

II. Physical Therapy

For more severe injuries, it may be necessary to undergo physical therapy to restore movement and functionality in the affected knee or help strengthen it to avoid future injury. Your doctor can provide the best advice regarding this subject and whether or not it’s right for you.

III. Injections & Medications

Various injections exist to help treat knee injuries. These include steroidal (also known as a cortisone shot), viscosupplementation, prolotherapy, ozone, platelet-rich plasma, stem cell, and amniotic treatments. As for medications, various pain relievers exist to help reduce the symptoms of knee injuries. Specialized drugs can also be used to treat inflammation and swelling.

In many cases, a combination of these treatments will be used in order to ensure the best results. For more complex cases, a medical professional should be involved. However, the list of home remedies is often sufficient for minor injuries.

Is My Knee Injury Serious?

In conclusion, it is difficult to determine how serious or unserious a knee injury may be from feelings alone. The best course of action is to seek medical attention or call your doctor if you suspect the injury is more than a mild sprain or strain to prevent a potentially serious injury from worsening.

For those recovering from a moderate to severe knee injury, consider the Ascender knee brace by Icarus Medical. This multi-compartmental unloading knee brace can unload up to 40 lbs of weight from the affected knee, aiding healing, relieving pain, and helping you return to daily life. If interested, contact our team of experts to learn more.

Get Started Today

Most braces are covered by insurance and the average cost is under $200!

Icarus knee brace blue
First Name(Required)
Last Name(Required)
I would like an Icarus rep to contact me with more information.
Veteran who goes to the VA