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R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression,
A common treatment prescribed
for synovitis is R.I.C.E., which stands for rest, ice,
compression, and elevation:
- Your doctor will likely suggest that you take it easy
for several days, so it may be wise to clear your schedule
of any physical activities.
- Initially, your doctor may recommend applying ice
packs to the knee for about 20 minutes every three or
four hours. You will probably need to do this for two
or three days or until the pain subsides.
- A knee sleeve will compress the knee and help keep
the swelling down. Make sure to use a sleeve without
a "donut," or hole, over the kneecap. The
sleeve should be worn until the swelling goes away.
- Elevating your knee above the level of your heart
will help reduce swelling by dispersing excess fluid
away from the injured area.
The swelling is usually due to an underlying condition
such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can be assessed
by an orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist. For some
people, synovitis is a lifelong problem that comes and
goes, and requires R.I.C.E. treatment as symptoms occur.
The most important
component of rehabilitation for sufferers of synovitis
is relative rest. This means modifying your workouts
to avoid the activities that cause pain. For example,
instead of riding a bike or running, you could swim
or rollerblade instead. Or, you could reduce the intensity
of your workout, by using less resistance when you ride,
or by eliminating hills from a running workout. Your
physician and physical therapist can help design a custom
rehab program that will teach you strengthening exercises
to stabilize your knee. Depending on how serious you
are about the relative rest and physical therapy, you
may be able to return to a normal level of activity
in three to four weeks. However, the time it takes to
return to activities is highly variable in individual
patients based on your pain threshold and activity level.
You may experience pain while engaged in physical activities,
and it may set back your rehabilitation. The pain is
usually felt during exercises, but can be even worse
afterwards. If pain and swelling increase after rehab
exercises, cut back on the intensity and duration of
your workout until you find a comfortable level. Many
people can return to activities between one and three
months after beginning physical therapy.
The best way to prevent recurring
synovitis is to properly treat the knee problem or disease
that caused synovitis. You may be able to reduce your
chances of recurring synovitis by avoiding a sudden
increase in activities that require repetitive motion,
such as cycling or using a stair-climbing machine. Easing
into an exercise routine after synovitis can help reduce
stress on the synovial membrane and help you avoid irritation.
In the absence of other knee complications, the amount
of caution you should use during activities to prevent
synovitis from recurring depends on your age as follows:
- Synovitis usually does not hinder joint function after
an injury. Once synovitis heals, it rarely returns.
- Synovitis may signal that you have sustained some
degree of cartilage damage. Becoming less involved in
strenuous activities, like contact sports or long distance
running, may help prevent future synovitis. But you
do not need to avoid activities or be overly concerned
with prevention unless the underlying cause of your
synovitis was a severe disease or injury that warrants
extra prevention measures.
- Synovitis may be more problematic later in life, harming
the function of your knee joint, and you should continue
to visit your physician for check-ups after your knee
heals. Because synovitis is a common companion of rheumatoid
arthritis and osteoarthritis, you should strongly consider
cutting back your activity level to avoid situations
that could strain your knee joint.
Weight control is also important. One extra pound of
body weight translates into three or four pounds of
weight across your knee every time you take a step.
Lightening the load on your knees helps them to function
better. Your physician may prescribe a lightweight knee
brace to wear during sports that require side-to-side
or twisting motions. You should also consider wearing
kneepads during activities like in-line skating that
put you at risk for falling.