Step-by-Step: Taking Care of Minor Knee Pain

Minor knee injury? Learn what symptoms to look for, how to apply first aid and when to call the doctor.

By Louis Neipris, M.D., Contributing Writer

The knee is a large and complex joint. It is composed of bones, tendons, cartilage, ligaments and fluid-filled sacks that help lubricate the joint. As the body's workhorse, it's also vulnerable to injury. 

When injured, the knee responds with a cascade of reactions that lead to inflammation and repair. Repeated injury and inflammation can lead to progressive knee pain and keep complete healing from happening.

You can often take care of minor knee injuries and mild pain and swelling at home, but when symptoms don't go away or get worse (or are severe initially), it's time to see your doctor.

Assess the symptoms
Symptoms of a minor knee injury may include:

If you have an injury, it's important to use first aid as soon as possible. First aid may also help for pain from a wear-and-tear injury, such as from frequent strain on your knee or even when you don't have a specific known injury. In this case, though, you will eventually need to get at the root cause of the pain or it may get worse. Pain that persists requires a diagnosis by a doctor.

Apply first aid
Use a therapy known as "RICE", which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help with pain and swelling.

But both of these types of medicines can interact with other medicines and cannot be used by people who have certain medical problems. Ask your doctor which over-the-counter medicine is right for you. Be careful to follow the label directions on any medicines that you use.

See your doctor for knee pain if:

Seek emergency medical help if: