Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Knee injuries

3-minute read

Knees provide stable support for the body and allow the legs to bend and straighten.

The knee is the largest joint in the body and is easily injured. The knee has 4 main types of tissues: bones, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. Any of these important types of tissue can be damaged through injury.

Common knee injuries include:

  • sprain (an over-stretching of ligaments in the knee)
  • torn ligament, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • strains (over-stretching of muscles and tendons)
  • damage to the cartilage that lines the knee
  • torn meniscus (the cartilage between the shinbone and thighbone)
  • irritation to the kneecap joint

Less common injuries to the knee include:

  • fractures (usually caused by sudden trauma or a direct blow, twisting, or falling on the knee)
  • kneecap dislocations
  • knee joint dislocations (uncommon as it requires a great force)

When to see your doctor

You should seek medication attention if:

  • the knee pain is very bad
  • you have recently been injured or had an accident
  • you cannot walk on the knee
  • it feels like the knee is unstable or about to give way
  • you can’t straighten or fully bend your knee
  • the knee looks deformed

How are knee injuries treated?

Often knee injuries will get better using R.I.C.E.:

  • Rest — avoid using the injured joint for at least 2 days.
  • Ice — apply ice packs for 20 minutes every 2 hours (never apply ice directly to skin).
  • Compress — firmly bandage the injury or use a compression stocking.
  • Elevate — lie or sit with leg raised.

You can use pain relief medicines as advised by your doctor or pharmacist. Don’t use heat or massage to treat an injured knee. Avoid drinking alcohol and don’t go running while it is healing.

Your doctor may order an x-ray, CT or MRI scan. However, these imaging tests are not always recommended for knee injuries. Often, talking about what happened and a doctor’s physical examination will be just as useful.

Most people with a knee injury will need physiotherapy and a guided rehabilitation program.

Different treatments may be required for more serious knee injuries:

  • ACL rupture: ACL ruptures almost always need surgery followed by up to a year of rehabilitation.
  • PCL rupture: The knee will probably be immobilized in a long hinged knee brace. Rehabilitation will be needed for 6 to 10 weeks.
  • Other ligament injuries: Treatment involves wearing a hinged knee brace followed by 6 to 12 weeks of rehabilitation.
  • Meniscal tear: Usually rest and physiotherapy is recommended. Sometimes arthroscopy may be needed.
  • Dislocated kneecap or fracture: The knee joint will be immobilised and arthroscopy may be needed followed by physiotherapy to prevent another dislocation.

Go back to your doctor if:

  • the pain or swelling doesn’t get better in a few days
  • the symptoms become worse
  • you develop a fever or redness in your knee

Knee damage can also occur from underlying disease such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Follow the links below to find information about knee injuries.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Knee injuries - Better Health Channel

Mild knee injuries may heal by themselves, but all injuries should be checked and diagnosed by a doctor or physiotherapist.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Acute knee injuries, explained - NPS MedicineWise

Learn about how to receive the best care for two common knee injuries – meniscus tear & anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. 

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Knee replacement surgery - Better Health Channel

Knee replacement surgery removes a diseased knee joint and replaces it with an artificial joint.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Arthritis and surgery: knee replacement -

If you suffer from arthritis of the knee that remains painful despite treatment with medicines, exercise, rest and supports to assist your mobility, you may benefit from a knee replacement.

Read more on myDr website

Knees — Arthritis Australia

The knee is commonly affected by arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis (OA)

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Anterior knee pain (children) — Arthritis Australia

Anterior knee pain is pain which occurs in the front of the knee around the knee cap

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Osgood Schlatter syndrome - Better Health Channel

Osgood-Schlatter syndrome is a painful knee condition that affects adolescents.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Anterior knee pain in children and adolescents | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is anterior knee pain? Anterior knee pain is a common complaint in children and adolescents

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Osteoarthritis of the Knee : Clinical Care Standard Consumer Fact Sheet

Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes joints to become painful and stiff. The knee is a common joint that is affected.

Read more on Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care website

Ankle and knee imaging resources for consumers - Choosing wisely

Ankle and knee resources for consumers, including useful links and factsheets.

Read more on Choosing Wisely Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.