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Knee Fracture: Tips to Speed Up Recovery Time


A knee fracture can greatly limit your mobility since your knees are the largest weight-bearing joint in your body. Most alarmingly, you can fracture your knee simply by moving the wrong way. Elderly people, whose bones and joints are starting to degenerate, are more prone to knee fractures.

A knee fracture typically presents with bruising, intense knee pain, difficulty extending the leg, walking difficulty, loss of feeling in the foot, and an obvious deformity. The good news is that a knee fracture is quite easy to take care of and can even heal quickly with the right management.

The most common type of knee fracture involves the patella, otherwise known as the kneecap. It’s a painful injury that is usually sustained from a bad fall in which you land directly on the kneecap. Eccentric contractions, while they usually happen when you’re doing bicep curls with a barbell, can likewise happen to your kneecap, thereby causing a fracture. This happens when you try to straighten your knee while your quadriceps are contracted.

Aside from the kneecap, you can also sustain a knee fracture to the bones surrounding the knee such as the shin bone and thigh bone. At any rate, the common causes of knee fractures are falls, especially from significant heights, and receiving a direct blow to the knee from contact sports and vehicular accidents.

Immediate Treatment of Knee Fractures

If you suspect a knee fracture, you need to consult your doctor right away. To determine the type and severity of your fracture, you will have to undergo an X-ray. Your doctor can recommend immobilization or a surgery if the damage is severe.

Regardless of the extent of damage to your knee, it is recommended that you lay off pressure on the injured leg to prevent aggravating the fracture further. You might even have to wear a splint or a cast for additional knee support while taking medications for pain and inflammation.

Recovery Period for Knee Fractures

The recovery time for knee fractures varies depending on the severity of the injury. Surgery should be the last option. Nevertheless, as long as your doctor doesn’t note any complications, you can expect the fracture to heal easily.

For simple knee fractures, the knee can heal within a few weeks. However, for severe knee fractures, recovery time usually takes six to eight weeks. Physiotherapy is generally recommended to get back your full range of motion and to relieve your knee pain. With the proper treatment and by following the recommendations of your doctor, you can get back to your normal activities quickly.

Healing Your Knee: What You Can Do

Typically, there are three phases of recovery from a knee fracture. The first phase is pain management.

To manage the pain, you have to apply the RICE principle concurrent with your intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other pain relievers. You need to:
  • Rest the affected area and refrain from applying undue pressure to the knee.
  • Ice the knee to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Compress the knee by using immobilization devices recommended by your doctor.
  • Elevate the affected leg at least four times a day to relieve swelling and prevent your muscles from wasting away from lack of use (muscle atrophy).

If you have a history of stomach ulcers and internal bleeding or if you have a heart, liver, or kidney disease, inform your doctor for you might be given special precautions when taking pain relievers.

The second phase is rehabilitation, which is crucial if you want to resume your normal activities. Rehabilitation is recommended regardless if you were given surgical or non-surgical treatment for your knee fracture. Rehabilitating your knee is important especially since your knee may have become stiff and your thigh muscles weak due to weeks of being immobilized.

A physical therapist will design a program for you to follow, which are meant to decrease the stiffness of your soft tissues, strengthen your leg muscles, and improve the range of motion of your injured knee.

The third and final phase is weight bearing, in which your doctor will advise you when you can start bearing weight on your knee and how much weight you can put on it. Initially, you will have to try a light weight-bearing exercise, which involves touching your toe to the floor. The intensity of the exercises will increase gradually until you can fully put weight on your leg minus the pain.

While on the recovery stage, don’t forget to fuel your body with the proper amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals since bone remodeling takes up too much energy.

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