Knee Sprain

Your exam shows you have a sprained knee. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and difficulty bearing weight on the injured side. The knee joint is supported by 4 major ligaments and 2 cartilages. Injury to any of these can make the knee unstable.


Incomplete tears of the knee ligaments often heal without surgery if they are given proper rest and support. However, surgery may be needed with more severe knee sprains, because this can lead to long-term disability. Serious knee injuries are often evaluated and treated with surgery that uses a thin, lighted tube (arthroscope). This allows for a more accurate diagnosis, better treatment, and reduced disability.


  • Follow any weight-bearing instructions from your caregiver. Do not bear any weight if you were told not to.

  • Knee splints and compression bandages will reduce motion, pain, and swelling. Do not remove your knee splint or bandage until your caregiver approves.

  • Rest the injured leg as much as possible.

  • Raise (elevate) the injured leg above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.

  • Put ice on the injured area.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, every 1 to 2 hours while awake.

  • Medicine to reduce inflammation and pain is often helpful.

  • Follow up with your caregiver as directed.


  • Pain gets worse. This may be a sign of a broken (fractured) bone.

  • Your injury is not improving after 1 week of treatment. Persistent pain and swelling, reduced motion, and locking or giving way of the knee means you need to see an orthopedic specialist.