After surgery, resting the knee is first step to reduce swelling. Straining the knee by putting excessive weight on it will aggravate swelling.
Ice is one of the most important remedies for swelling. Three to four times a day after the surgery, an ice pack should be applied to the knee for periods of 20 to 30 minutes. Ice should never be placed directly on skin; it should be wrapped in a thin cloth. A loosely wrapped elastic bandage can help hold the ice pack in place.
Wrapping the knee with an elastic bandage can help to reduce swelling. Use caution to avoid wrapping the bandage so tight that circulation is cut off. Additionally, elastic, calf-high compression socks may also help reduce swelling in the lower leg.
Immediately after the surgery, the operated leg should be kept elevated as much as possible. While lying down, the leg should be elevated above the heart. A useful guideline is to elevate the leg until the toes are above the nose. The leg should be supported with pillows under the calf, ankle and thigh, but not directly underneath the knee.
Doctors will often prescribe oral anti-inflammatory medications, such as naproxen, to control swelling after surgery. Alternatively, doctors may direct patients to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen. The dose and frequency recommended after surgery is often higher than normal, day-to-day use of these medications.
An additional step that may reduce swelling is to limit salt intake after the surgery. Ingestion of large quantities of salt tends to increase water retention, which can worsen swelling. Some doctors may not mention this measure because rest, ice and elevation are much more effective means of reducing swelling.
Gentle exercise may provide additional help in reducing swelling. Quadriceps-strengthening exercises, such as gently raising the leg until the knee is fully extended, can help to improve circulation around the surgery site and reduce swelling. However, extreme caution should be taken to not place too much strain on the knee.