Dealing with a hyperextended knee injury is often exactly as painful as it sounds. Any time one of your body parts bends the “wrong way,” you’re likely in for a tough time. As a common injury in high impact sports or any forceful contact with the front of the knee, even less severe cases can expect it to take anywhere from 2-4 weeks before you are back to normal without feeling like your knee will give out on you at any moment.
With hyperextension, the ligaments that hold the knee in place are pushed past their normal range of motion and can become stretched or torn. The result is a diminished range of motion, instability of the knee joint, swelling, and bruising.
Part of the problem when the knee has been hyperextended is that it becomes difficult to straighten your leg as well as having difficulty bending it. This middle ground of trying to find comfort can leave you feeling less than excited about an entire night of sleep. But, for a hyperextended knee – that is precisely what you need.
Using RICE to Achieve Sleep
The standard treatment for a hyperextended knee injury is the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Using RICE, as well as allowing your knee to have adequate time to heal, is the best home treatment that you can use to help yourself on your way to recovery. Here’s how to apply each step so that you can get some sleep with a hyperextended knee.
Rest: Be sure to give your knee plenty of downtime. Start with having a consistent sleep routine, which includes going to sleep at the same time each night and getting in a full 7-9 hours of rest. Because we spend all day on our legs, it’s crucial to give the body time to go through its healing process. If you find it hard to fall asleep due to the pain, a sleep aid may help during the first few nights.
Ice: After a hyperextension injury, the knee will become swollen, which makes bending and straightening challenging and painful. Before you head to bed at night, be sure to ice your knee for 15-20 minutes. You should use a cold compress when you get home as well if you have spent the day putting a lot of weight or pressure on it. Remember to never place ice directly on your skin. I personally use a Vive Knee Ice Pack Wrap (link to Amazon) to both ice my knee and provide compression as well. I picked it up last year after a knee injury, and have absolutely loved how inexpensive and how well it works at reducing pain.
Compression: Wrapping the knee in a compression bandage will help with stabilizing the knee joint and also preventing you from doing more damage in your sleep. Because we tend to move around, a shift in position will likely lead to waking with soreness in the knee.
Elevation: Keeping your leg elevated is useful for reducing the swelling and keeping the leg stable while you sleep. Try keeping your leg above your heart, and be sure to place the pillows under your knee, not just your foot or ankle. I highly recommend using a Memory Foam Leg Elevation Pillow (link to Amazon) to provide the much-needed elevation for your knee while still remaining comfortable. Regular pillows only go so far! I’ve found a dedicated leg elevation pillow helps extremely well compared to normal pillows stacked on top of each other.
Medication: While not (technically) part of the RICE method, taking over the counter anti-inflammatories can be useful when you’re trying to fall asleep, but your knee is causing you discomfort. Be sure to take any medication as directed.
Your day-to-day activities may be limited while you are healing from the hyperextension, so take advantage of resting the knee and keeping it stable while you are sleeping.
Some hyperextended knee injuries are easy to recognize and begin to heal. Others may require a clinical diagnosis. If you have experienced a more severe injury, with possible ligament damage, speak to a healthcare professional for the best treatment advice. Even with minor injuries, you should seek medical advice before resuming your physical activities.