How To Treat Knee Inflammation

Knee pain and discomfort can come in many ways.  I played years of soccer and other sports and knee injuries along the way have contributed to the knees I have today.  Most people do not know that I have knees that can get inflamed easily and I need to really take care of them to do the things I want to do in the weight room and in the great outdoors.

There are two types of inflammation that this post is going to put a focus towards; Chondromalacia (inflammation to the underside of the kneecap) and Patellar tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon between the kneecap and the tibia).  Patellar tendonitis is also sometimes referred to as “jumper’s knee”.  I previously did another post titled How To Treat Chondromalcia Of The Knee, but did not address ways to lower the inflammation level.  This post will provide some simple ways to help lower inflammation for both of these conditions.

When starting a rehab program or doing corrective exercises to get rid of these discomforts, many times the inflammation levels may be a bit to high.  Lowering it to a manageable level many times needs to be the first step before exercises can even be done.  Usually these are advanced cases and we try to never allow our athletes to get to that level, but it can happen.  The following routine and list is exactly what I start my athletes off doing.  These are also going to be listed in the order they should be done.

Knee Rubbing:  This may seem a little silly at first but once you try it, you find out it really works pretty well.  Basically, you just take your hand and gently rub the knee.  This is not a deep tissue massage, so you are not pushing down hard.  Rub the whole surrounding area that is inflamed gently back and forth and also in small circular motions. This will generate some heat between you hand and knee.  This sensation of rubbing the skin will send a signal to the brain through your neurological system to help relax the area and in a way desensitize the discomfort a little bit.  There really is no set amount of time to do this for.  Usually a few minutes is enough to start feeling the effects.  I am laughing a little to myself right now because a good portion of people who will read this will be sitting there rubbing their knee just to see if they feel the difference.

Standing Lunge Stretch:  Take a big step forward so your legs are positioned into a split stance.  Then squat straight down slowly.  Depending on the level of inflammation this will probably result in some slight discomfort at first.  As you squat down slowly, do not allow your lead knee to move forward.  The shin should remain perpendicular to the floor.  Once down in that position, take both hands and extend them over the opposite shoulder of the knee that is backwards, as shown in the video.  This will give a better stretch to the hip flexor region of the hip.  Hold for 10-20 seconds and repeat 3-5 times on each side.

Bulgarian Split Stance Stretch:  This is a very similar stretch like the standing lunge stretch except you will have the back foot elevated on something approximately hip height or slightly below.  Again the lead shin will remain perpendicular to the floor.  Squat down and back towards the elevated foot.  This will keep the lead knee at 90 degrees with a deep stretch in the hip flexor region.  Hold 10-20 seconds and repeat 3-5 times on each side.  This is a much more aggressive stretch and if highly inflamed may not be able to do right away.

Now you are ready to possibly do any rehab or corrective exercises that you are able to do which must remain pain-free. If you are unable to do any pain-free or they start to become painful, then you are ready to move to the ice cup massage.

Ice Cup Massage Treatment:  You will need to have the ice cup prepared in advance.  First take a simple paper dixie/bathroom cup, fill it 3/4’s full with water and put a little squirt of biofreeze into it.  Although I have not tried it; I think mineral ice would work as well.  Stir the biofreeze or mineral ice and water up well in the cup and place it in the freezer to freeze solid.  I would make up a few cups at a time, that way you have multiple cups ready for a number of treatments.

Place the knee on a pillow so it puts a slight bend in the knee.  You will also want a layer or two of towel under the knee to catch the water as the ice cup melts.  Take the ice cup and tear the paper away from the top of the cup all the way around the cup so that you will only have about a 1/4 inch of cup remaining.  This will allow you to hold onto the ice cup without freezing your finger tips.  Now take the cup and massage the ice-biofreeze mix all over the inflamed area and around it for a full 2 inch diameter.  This whole area should be massaged for a full 12-15 minutes or until the area is pretty numb.  After you have treated the whole area and it is numb, just relax without bending the knee until the area naturally warms itself back up.  You will still feel the biofreeze on the treatment area.  An ice cup treatment penetrates much deeper than a standard bag of ice just paced in the knee.

I should point out here that some people are allergic to some topical agents like biofreeze and mineral ice, or direct ice as well.  If you are, avoid doing this treatment.  If you are just allergic to topical agents, you can leave it out and just go with a straight ice cup with nothing added.

Try to repeat this process 3 times a day if possible with at least 2 hours in-between each treatment.  Each time you are able to do this, you should be one step closer to lowering your inflammation and discomfort levels.  Don’t rush it or get impatient.  This sometimes will take a few days to start seeing improvement.  Just try to be persistent each day to get as many treatments in as possible.

Everyone will have a different level of inflammation, so all cases and time frames will be different, but typically everyone’s body will react the same over time.  I have never had anyone who has not improved or not felt better after taking these steps.

Hope this helps!

To your health,


Since we are on the topic of knee health; check out my approach to preventing ACL tears in athletes knees by clicking HERE!

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About Jerry Shreck

Division 1 Head Strength Coach at Bucknell University, Specialize In The Art of Injury Prevention Training Techniques God Loving Family Man (Wife-Trina & 2 daughters-Alexis & Aleyda)

9 Responses to “How To Treat Knee Inflammation”

  1. Thanks so much for all the fantastic information Jerry,I’m really hoping after a few more months of rehab I’ll be pain free and my friends will stop calling me a cripple. Its really sad being 21 years old and not being able to use a stairs properly haha!

    The quad stretch’s are the best, I had originally been trying to the couch stretch or the standard quad stretch where you pull your leg behind your back. but both really flared up the inflammation and pain later in the day.

    At this stage, it seems that the pain only flares up going down and up stairs, sitting into a chair or getting out of one. Mostly stairs seems to be the main culprit but from what I’ve read this is common with Chondro.

    I guess it’s a lot of box squats and TKE’s for the next few months when I get back to training. Ill be sure to keep you posted on how the recovery is going.

    Thanks again Jerry, the information you’ve given me is making all the difference.

    • David,
      Thanks for the comments. Hopefully, you will continue to improve. At 21 you are way to young to be unable to climb stairs properly. Knee inflammation can be crippling and it does take some time to get it under control. Be patient and be consistent with everything and improved results normally follow.

  2. Jerry,
    I want to thank you for all the information you provide on this site. I’m not sure how I landed here a couple of years ago, but, the information i get here has been invaluable. I am a 51 year old Ironman Triathlete. As such, I do lot of sport specific training and do not always get a lot of variety in. This video, for example, the bio-freeze in the ice cup, wow, what a great idea! That can be used for any of my sore joins and muscles after a long swim, bike or run. Plus, I learn all kinds of different stretches and great weight training exercises here also. Thank you again

    • Ken,
      Thank you for the kind comments. This is why I put this site together in the first place. I really wanted a site where coaches and athletes could come to and get real training information or a place they could ask questions and get straight answers. It is a lot of time, money, and commitment from me but when I get a comment like yours it makes it worth while. Thanks brother!!

  3. Jerry,

    Thank you for the helpful and informative posts – I am getting a lot of value out of your techniques.

    I have chondromalacia in both knees (many years of running) and they’ve flared up quite a bit after 18 months of road cycling – just overuse and probably climbing in too high of a gear on a ride ~ 3 months ago definitely aggravated things, and I’ve tried to recover and get back into my cycling routine, but with no real success.

    As I start treating the inflammation more aggressively and working on the stretches, etc. – what is your recommendation for incorporating road cycling into a treatment protocol? Is it safe to continue cycling at a lower mileage & speed (maybe 3x rides @ 20 miles/ride and 16-17 mph speed) and limit climbing/resistance/power into the pedals, or would you suggest taking a complete break from cycling entirely? I primarily concerned that even light cycling could be doing more damage to the knees while I treat them. Thanks for any feedback or suggestions that you might have, and thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

    • Dan,
      I would recommend taking a 2-3 week phase away from the bike. If you feel or think it is causing inflammation-then it probably is. Keep your conditioning up by swimming (mainly with your arms if it also irritates your knees). This will allow you the best chances to start reducing the inflammation.

  4. Sounds good Jerry; that’s what I will do. That makes sense what you’re saying re: if cycling is causing inflammation. Sometimes my mind wants to tell me that it isn’t, but I can physically feel the minor swelling which probably isn’t a good thing. Thank you so much for offering up your knowledge through this site and your videos. I am very appreciative!

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