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The Alternative to Ignoring Knee Swelling: part 2 of 2

In a previous article, I explained why knee swelling occurs.

In this article, I’ll explain what to do for knee swelling instead of ignoring it.

[ read time ~ 4 minutes ]

In Part 1 of this article, I shared about my client Bill* who had a full centimeter of left knee swelling.

Bill was not really concerned about his knee swelling. But he did want to return to cycling and hiking without knee pain. Within three weeks-- and 3 coaching sessions with me-- the measurement around his left knee decreased from 41.5 cm to 40.5 cm, and the measurement around his right knee decreased from 40.5 cm to 39.75 cm.

While his swelling was decreasing, the difference between his right and left knees indicated that his left knee was still swollen. (A difference of at least 0.5 centimeters is significant for swelling.)

At this point, I asked him to begin tracking his knee swelling. Each morning he used a flexible tape measure to determine and record the circumference around each knee. (To learn how to measure knee swelling, watch this video.)

Tracking his swelling revealed fluctuations related to his activities. His knees were bigger for a day or two after he mowed his yard, used a shovel to dig a few holes, or stood for 15 consecutive minutes. Bill no longer felt like his knee swelling was completely random. And he knew that he could probably prevent the swelling if he avoided those particular activities.

But avoiding all of the activities that cause knee swelling is not a sustainable solution for my active clients. Instead they use a three-step process to get rid of knee joint swelling.

Step 1: Perform comfortable isometric exercises like Quad Sets. (To perform Quad Sets optimally, watch The Ultimate Guide to Quad Sets.)

Bill was completing 20 Quad Sets at 5 different times each day.

Quad Sets thicken the joint fluid inside the knees. When swelling is present, the fluid inside the knee is a lower quality fluid. Rather than the healthy joint fluid that is thick and viscous like egg whites, swelling is thinner, more watery fluid, and it doesn’t provide shock-absorption or protection to the surfaces inside your knee. It’s hard to get a stronger, healthier knee when swelling is present.

Step 2: Gently move your knee in ways that feel good and require very little effort. (For an easy example of gentle movement, watch How to Use a Furniture Mover to Decrease Knee Pain or Stiffness.)

Bill was completing easy knee motion several times throughout the day. On most days, he performed 4 sets of 5 minutes of Sitting Sliders and 3 sets of 10 minutes of squats using only 17% of his body weight. (To achieve only 17% of his body weight, Bob used a Variable Incline Plane.)

Step 3: Avoid the activities that are causing knee swelling. The activities that are causing swelling aren’t always obvious. Swelling may be the result of a particular exercise or the volume of exercise. Or it may even be related to something that doesn’t seem harmful, like taking the stairs.

In Bill’s case, he limited his walking and took his dog to a park to run around while he sat on a nearby bench. He hired someone to mow his yard. And since he had stairs in his home and could not avoid them completely, he used the handrail and took steps one at a time.

Within a month of measuring his swelling each morning and following this three-part process, Bill’s right knee measured only 39.1 centimeters and his left knee was 39.5 centimeters. Not only had his swelling diminished, but his pain had decreased and his joint strength more than doubled. (I determined his joint strength by assessing his Squat Load Tolerance. (To learn more about measuring Squat Load Tolerance, watch this video.)

As he continued these daily exercises and also completed several new exercises that I recommended, Bill’s knee joint became four times stronger. After a total of 16 weeks, daily activities like walking his dog and standing to talk with his neighbors were no longer a problem. And he was able to resume cycling without knee pain, stiffness, or swelling.

The alternative to ignoring knee swelling requires time, attentiveness, and patience. But this process is critical for returning to an active life without recurring stiffness, swelling, and pain.

Learn more about knee swelling and pain: The 90 Day Knee Arthritis Remedy.

Update: After Bill & I worked together, he continued performing 100 Quad Sets each day, along with 10 minutes of Sitting Sliders, & a total of 30 minutes of easy squats on his Variable Incline Plane. He did this consistently throughout the next several months. As spring weather arrived, he began to replace the Sitting Sliders and easy squats with biking outside. When I heard from Bill, he had worked up to cycling 20 miles on most days of the week, and he was preparing to train for two century rides the following autumn.


My colleague, Doug Kelsey, PT, PhD, and I have developed Better Knees for Life, a program for people with tolerable knee pain. Better Knees for Life offers step-by-step instructions that can be performed at home with very little equipment.

What people are saying about Better Knees for Life :

"...well thought out, easy to understand and implement."

"It is almost like a computer algorithm. (That's how clear it is!)"

"BKL (Better Knees for Life) is an outstanding program -- with graded exercise programs and guidelines for advancing, and outstanding support with the Zoom sessions."

"I've already recommended BKL to 2-3 friends because of the noticeable difference in reducing pain in my left knee."

Better Knees for Life helps you get stronger, feel better and maybe best of all, feel more in control of your life.

To determine if working with me is a good fit for you to overcome knee pain, schedule a Strategy Session by clicking here.

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