4 Ways to Improve Your Knee Swelling

One common question we get in ACL rehab is what to do when your knee swells up.⁠

Check out these 4 strategies to help attack your knee swelling so you can get back to rehab and training as soon as you can. Pay extra attention to #1. This one is often times the culprit.⁠


1️⃣ Load Management – you might be doing too much too soon. Adjust your training and volume to a level that your knee doesn’t get swollen. Example: running 3 miles creates swelling but it’s fine at 1-2 miles. Stay at this a little while longer. Add smaller increments as you progress (0.25-0.5 miles instead of 1 mile). Use 24 hours as a feedback loop to see if what you did the day before is making it better, worse, or the same. If it’s worse, do less.⁠

2️⃣ Compression – you can find a cheap compression knee sleeve on amazon or use an ace wrap to give the knee a nice hug, push fluid out the joint, and minimize fluid getting into the joint.⁠

3️⃣ Elevation – use gravity to assist you by elevating your leg above your heart level so we can push that fluid back towards your heart. Gravity is your friend until it’s not.⁠

4️⃣ Active Recovery – Prioritize your recovery days and know when to push hard and to ease off the gas (high/low days). Use movement to push fluid out. After ACL reconstruction, ankle pumps are often prescribed to help use the muscle as a pump to assist with fluid and blood circulation since you’re more immobile. Maybe adding in some low-level aerobic work on a bike may help to drive some better circulation and fluid out of the joint. If you go overboard here, see #1.

Check out this podcast episode for a deep dive on this topic: