Knee pain: How it affected me

One of the things that drove me crazy about my knee injury is that my daily activities are severely impacted by the swelling and painful knee. I drive my wife and kid to school, move around a lot at work, run errands and try to maximize my weekends. With a knee injury, walking becomes difficult and I can’t do these things.

After a visit to my orthopedic specialist and physiotherapist, I realised I can manage my pain, reduce its effect, and get on with most of my daily tasks.

Biggest issue with knee pain: swelling

When I first tore my ACL, I could still get up and walk around. In fact, I was walking along the beach for another couple of hours, went to McDonald’s and had pancakes with the family before driving home.

But 8 hours later, my left knee swelled up to almost twice the size of my right knee, and I my range of motion was limited – I couldn’t bend my knee 90 degrees. It was more painful to walk now. I went to the A&E at midnight on a Saturday, did an X-ray. Nothing was broken, so the doctor suggested I see a specialist first thing on Monday. They told me to apply the RICE method to reduce the swelling:

  • Rest your knee – don’t walk around so much, this will cause further swelling
  • Ice your knee – use an ice pack, ice cubes in a bag, to reduce the swelling
  • Compress the knee – use a compression wrap to reduce swelling
  • Elevate your leg – the upwards angle will reduce swelling as it encourages fluid to flow away from accumulating around your injured knee

As you can see, the 4 steps contribute to swelling reduction.

Why does the knee swell?

The knee experienced a trauma, and that caused excess fluid to build up around (or even in) your knee joint. Your doctor may mention the terms effusion or oedema/edema. Without going to complicated medical definitions, your doctor is definitely looking at swelling in your knee.

Of course, if your knee injury includes reddish area, the injured area feeling warm to the touch, you having fever, severe pain, open wounds, knee buckling and giving way, etc – forget about the RICE method and immediately seek medical attention!

The accumulated fluid in and around the joint is what’s causing you limited flexibility and even pain. This is why we need to reduce the swelling.

Beyond the RICE method: Physiotherapy

This is the most important part for me that helped quicken the process to reduce my swelling. Physiotherapy included exercising the knee in a controlled manner to strengthen the muscles (especially your quadriceps), and also electrotherapy to reduce the swelling and encourage circulation.

You can see my electrotherapy happening below – this usually lasts about 20 mins during my physiotherapy session and I did this pre-op as well as post-op (video below is 9 days after surgery):

Whether you require electrotherapy, and what types of exercises you should do during your physiotherapy and after you leave the studio is entirely dependent on your medical professionals – I would suggest bouncing the ideas and discuss with them the best course of action for you.

Once swelling is gone

Once your knee looks almost back to the size it should be and there is no not much swelling seen, you should be ready for the next step – this can be a full rehabilitation programme, or surgery. You have taken a step in your journey towards recovery. I wish you good luck, and if you have any questions at all, please feel free to comment below.