What to do if you injure your knee

Expert reviewer, Lucy Rath, Bupa Senior Physiotherapist Next review due January 2023

Unfortunately, knee injuries sometimes happen, even if you take all the right steps to reduce your chances . If you’ve just injured your knee, there are some actions you should take to help reduce swelling, pain and therefore aid faster recovery. There are also things you should avoid doing. A great way to remember this is using POLICE and HARM.

A man kneeling, looking at his phone


If your knee injury is serious, you should seek immediate medical attention, especially if you think you have a fracture (broken bone).

If you injure your knee muscle, ligament or tendon, or the soft tissue surrounding it, follow the POLICE principles to help reduce your pain and help you to recover.

Protect. Protect your injury from further damage. You’ll need to rest immediately after the injury but not for long. Depending on the injury, consider using some form of support or a splint.

Optimal Loading. Get active sooner rather than later. Start to put weight on your injury and build up your range of movement. Do this gradually and be guided by what feels right for you.

Ice. Place a cold compress such as a bag of ice or frozen peas, wrapped in a towel onto the painful area. Do this for around 20 minutes every couple of hours for the first two to three days.

Compression. Compress the injured area using a bandage to help reduce swelling.

Elevation. Elevate your injury above the level of your heart. Put arm injuries in a sling and rest leg injuries, while sitting or lying on a chair and cushion.

An image describing the acronym PRICE


For the first few days after an injury, prevent further damage by avoiding HARM.

Heat. Don’t have hot baths, showers or saunas and avoid using heat rubs or packs after an injury.

Alcohol. Avoid alcohol as it can slow down your recovery and increase your chances of hurting yourself again.

Running. Don’t run or do other types of moderate activity as this may cause further damage.

Massage. Massaging the injured area can cause more swelling and bruising, so avoid this for the first day or two.

An image describing the acronym HARM

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Related information

    • Treatment of sports injuries: Chapter 17 (Section: Acute Injury Management). Bruker & Khan's Clinical Sports Medicine (vol 1. 5th ed online)., published 2017
    • Overview of fractures. MSD manual., last reviewed July 2019
  • Reviewed by Alice Windsor, Specialist Health Editor, Bupa Health Content Team, January 2020
    Expert reviewer, Lucy Rath, Senior Physiotherapist, Bupa
    Next review due January 2023