Long term outcome

•       Most knee injuries will recovery fully within six to eight weeks

•       More severe injuries may take longer to heal and some people may experience persistent problems lasting several months 

•       Your doctor or physio may be able to give an indication of expected healing and recovery times, depending on your initial injury

When to see your GP:

•       You cannot put weight on your knee at all 

•       You have severe pain even when you're not putting weight on it, such as at night 

•       Your knee locks or painfully clunks (painless clicking is OK) 

•       Your knee keeps giving way 

•       You have fever, redness or heat around the knee, or it's very swollen 

•       You have pain, swelling, numbness or tingling of the calf beneath your affected knee 

•       The pain doesn't start to improve within a few weeks or you have pain that's still severe after a few days of caring for your knee at home

What is an acute knee injury?

  • An acute knee injury is a recent trauma to the knee, which could involve the bones or soft tissues within the knee
  • A sprain is when a ligament has been twisted, stretched or torn
  • A strain is when the muscle or soft tissue has been overstretched and / or has partially torn
  • The pain is usually worse in the first two weeks, which is inflammatory phase. Typically these injuries resolve in 4-6 weeks and this can be helped by following the recommendations in this leaflet.

Immediately post-injury:


  • For the first 48-72 hours it is important to rest from aggravating activities, and to elevate and apply ice to help reduce swelling.
  • Apply ice wrapped in a damp towel to the injured area for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours during the day. Don’t leave the ice on while you’re asleep and don’t allow the ice to touch your skin directly because it could cause a cold burn.
  • Keep the injured area raised and supported up on a pillow when resting to help to reduce swelling.
  • You may be given crutches to assist with your walking and it is important to try to walk with a normal walking pattern.

It is very important to strengthen your gluteal bottom) muscles as these muscles also help to provide stability to the leg. Whilst standing, sitting or lying, practice squeezing your buttocks tightly. Hold for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times, 3 times a day.

Pain medication:

  • Paracetamol is usually recommended for painful injuries
  • Ibuprofen can also help reduce swelling and inflammation. However, it shouldn't be used in the first 48 hours after the injury because it may delay healing
  • Always follow the correct dose instructions for the age of the child

Moving your injured knee:

The injury will heal quicker if you begin to gently move your knee as
soon as you're able to do so. Below are some simple exercises that can be completed 2-3 times daily as your feel comfortable, without experiencing significant pain. Bend and straighten your injured knee fully, as pain allows, until the range of movement is the same as the other knee.

In lying or sitting, squeeze your thigh muscle, pushing your knee down into the bed and try to get your heel to lift. Your knee cap should lift slightly and your thigh muscle should tense. Hold for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times. Lying on your back, bend one knee up. Keep the injured knee straight and turn toes out to the side. Squeeze your thigh muscle, and lift your leg up about 45 degrees. Hold for 5 seconds then slowly lower, repeat 10 times.


Many thanks to the Paediatric Physiotherapy team at University Hospitals Dorset for developing these resources

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