You have a knee fracture, and you’re wondering how to recover properly?
Whether you’re an athlete who’s sustained a sports-related injury or you’ve had a fall, understanding the recovery process is essential for a successful rehabilitation journey.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll delve into the various aspects of healing and recovery after a fractured knee.
From the initial injury to resuming your daily activities, I’ll provide you with valuable information and tips to help you navigate this recovery phase with confidence!
I’m Nelly, a french physical therapist. I love writing articles that draw upon my experience and my research in scientific studies.
Happy reading 🙂!
Last update: October 2023
Disclaimer: Affiliate links. Complete disclosure in legal notices.
Written by Nelly Darbois, physical therapist and scientific writer
What are the different types of knee fractures?
The knee is a joint composed of several bones:
- The thigh bone, the femur
- The leg bones, the tibia and the fibula
- And the kneecap, the patella
When we talk about a knee fracture, we are actually referring to a fracture that affects one or more of these bones.
And depending on the specific part of the bone involved and the type of fracture, different names are given to these knee fractures.
It’s important to know the specific type of knee fracture you have because it will determine the treatment and healing time
How can you determine which knee fracture you have?
You can determine which type of knee fracture you have by relying on diagnostic imaging, particularly X-rays, and sometimes other types of scans.
These imaging methods are crucial for identifying the specific location, severity, and type of fracture within the knee.
Your healthcare provider will order these imaging tests, and a radiologist will analyze the results and provide a detailed report.
This report will specify:
- the exact nature of the fracture: with or without displacement,
- which bone is affected (femur, tibia, fibula, patella),
- and the specific area within the bone.
Once you have this diagnostic information, your medical team can tailor your treatment plan and provide you with a more accurate prognosis.
What are the most common knee fractures?
Knee fractures can vary in terms of location, severity, and complexity. Here are different types of knee fractures, listed from most common to less common:
- Patella Fracture: Fractures of the patella (kneecap) are relatively common and can range from small cracks to complete breaks.
- Tibial Plateau Fracture: These fractures occur in the top surface of the tibia (shinbone) and are often the result of high-energy trauma.
- Femoral Condyle Fracture: These fractures involve the rounded ends of the femur (thighbone) and can vary in severity.
- Fibular Fracture: The fibula, the smaller of the two lower leg bones, can also be fractured and may affect the knee joint indirectly.
- Distal Femur Fracture: These fractures occur in the lower end of the femur and may extend into the knee joint.
- Proximal Tibial Fracture: These fractures occur in the upper end of the tibia near the knee.
- Avulsion Fractures: These occur when a piece of bone is pulled away from the knee due to a ligament or tendon injury.
- Knee Dislocation with Fracture: This is a complex injury where the knee joint is dislocated, often associated with fractures in the surrounding bones.
You’ll find more specific articles about some of these fractures on my website. I hope to eventually cover all of these fractures!
What factors influence the healing time?
Several factors can influence the healing time of your knee fracture, with certain types of fractures typically taking longer to consolidate.
These factors include:
- Bone Involved: Different bones within the knee joint, such as the femur, tibia, fibula, and patella, may exhibit varying healing rates.
For instance, fractures involving the femur or tibia can be more complex and take longer to heal due to their larger size and weight-bearing role.
- Type and Location of the Fracture: Different bones and specific areas within those bones may have varying healing times.
For example, fractures that involve the knee joint itself (intra-articular fractures) often take longer to heal than those outside the joint.
- Severity of the Fracture: The extent of the fracture, whether it’s a minor crack or a complete break, can impact healing time.
More severe fractures generally necessitate longer healing periods, especially if they involve multiple fragments or displaced bone segments.
- Your Overall Health: A person’s general health and well-being significantly influence the healing process.
Individuals with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems may experience delays in healing.
- Smoking and Alcohol Consumption: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact bone healing.
Smoking reduces blood flow to the injured area, limiting the delivery of essential nutrients, while alcohol can interfere with bone metabolism and the body’s natural healing processes.
- Age Factor: Older individuals may experience longer healing times due to reduced bone density, decreased blood flow to the bones, and potentially compromised immune function.
- Rehab and physical activity: The engagement and commitment to physical activity and rehabilitation exercises can significantly impact healing time.
Regular and appropriate exercise can accelerate recovery by improving muscle strength and joint mobility.
As you can see, many factors influence healing. Not to mention genetic predispositions to recover faster or slower when you injure something.
That’s why it’s challenging to provide a precise healing time!
However, I will provide rough estimates in the following sections of the article.
What is the typical healing time for different knee fractures?
Here are healing timelines based on my experience with individuals who have had various types of knee fractures.
You can see that the ranges are wide because there is significant variability among individuals (even though I understand it can be frustrating not to have a fixed timeline for your own recovery!).
|Stage||Recovery time after fractured knee|
|You have much less pain||2-4 weeks|
|Your bones are well healed||4-12 weeks|
|Your knee swelling disappears||Several weeks to months|
|You start walking with crutches||Immediately|
|You start walking without crutches||6 weeks – 3 months|
|You can drive a car||6 weeks-12 weeks|
|You return to work||2-8 months|
|It’s time to get back to sports!||2-8 months|
|You have fully recovered functionally and muscularly||3 months – 1 year|
What can be done to speed up the healing process?
There are measures you can take to support and potentially expedite the healing process after a knee fracture.
However, understand that there are no magic medications or remedies that can significantly accelerate healing!
The body has its natural healing mechanisms, and the focus should primarily be on not hindering the consolidation process, which occurs on its own.
Here are some steps you can take to promote a healthy recovery:
- Rest and Immobilization: Allow the injured knee to rest and avoid putting excessive weight on it, especially in the early stages. Immobilization with a brace or cast may be necessary.
- Maintain a minimum level of physical activity: which can help improve range of motion, strength, and joint stability. This also preserves your physical and mental health and reduces the risk of complications associated with sedentary behavior.
- Avoid Smoking and Excessive Alcohol: Smoking impairs blood flow, while excessive alcohol can interfere with bone metabolism. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake can aid in the healing process.
- Weight Management: Maintain a healthy body weight to reduce excess strain on the healing knee joint.
- Patience and Rest: Allow your body the time it needs to heal naturally!
- Stress Management: Reducing stress levels can have a positive impact on overall health and healing. Engage in relaxation techniques or activities that help manage stress.
Here’s what I wanted to tell you about this! I wish you a very good recovery! Do you have any comments or questions? Your comments are welcome 🙂 !
If you feel the need to learn more about the recovery period after a fractured knee I wrote this guide in eBook format:
You may also like:
- Kneecap Fracture: How long Does it Last?
- Dislocated Kneecap: Recovery & Physical Therapy Tips
- Step-by-step guide for learning to walk after a broken leg
Steinmetz S, Brügger A, Chauveau J, Chevalley F, Borens O, Thein E. Practical guidelines for the treatment of patellar fractures in adults. Swiss Med Wkly. 2020 Jan 15;150:w20165. doi: 10.4414/smw.2020.20165. PMID: 31940427.
Coon MS, Best BJ. Distal Femur Fractures. [Updated 2023 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551675/
Thompson JH, Koutsogiannis P, Jahangir A. Tibia Fractures Overview. [Updated 2023 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513267/
Written by Nelly Darbois
I love writing articles based on my experience as a physiotherapist (since 2012), scientific writer, and extensive researcher in international scientific literature.
I live in the French Alps 🌞❄️, where I work as a scientific editor for my own website, which is where you are right now.