How to Reduce Swelling with Cabbage

I am officially 11 weeks post op from my knee surgery. It’s been a rough road. My surgeon told me it would be, but when you are in the middle of it, you tend to forget what you may have already known! Days after surgery, I was doing well. My leg was perfectly straight, which is not something I experienced with the first part of the surgery back in October. Swelling wasn’t bad either. That is, until around 8 or 9 weeks post op. At that point in recovery, I started dealing with crazy swelling. Find out how I helped reduce swelling with cabbage!

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reduce swelling with cabbage

Reduce Swelling with Cabbage

Now stay with me on this one. I realize looking at the picture of my leg above, you’re probably thinking, “this is crazy”, but hear me out! When you are 8 or 9 weeks post op and then swelling begins, you become desperate. None of the traditional things I was doing (icing and elevating) was helping with the swelling. Being that the warmer weather was coming, dealing with your leg swelling was uncomfortable and painful. Especially when the swelling would just settle in my thigh. I was genuinely desperate.

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I was so desperate that when I heard you could wrap cabbage leaves around your leg and the swelling would be significantly reduced, I was in. My husband laughed at me when I told him I needed him to pick me up a head of cabbage. When I explained what he would be helping me do with that cabbage, he laughed harder. Not going to lie!

How to use the Cabbage

So I’ve gotten your attention and now you’re probably wondering what you actually do with the cabbage. To reduce swelling with cabbage you need to carefully remove some of the cabbage leaves. You want enough leaves to cover the entire area that is swollen. In my case, I needed leaves to cover from my ankle to mid-thigh. Before you place the leaves around your leg, you want to slightly bruise the leaves. A rolling pinreduce swelling with cabbageworks well. I’m not sure the exact reason why you want to do this. It has something to do with the juice in the leaves. It also helps to make the leaves a little more pliable!

After bruising the leaves, begin placing them on your leg (or area that is swollen). In my case, we started at the ankle and worked our way up. If you are wrapping a large area like I was, you will want to use your plastic wrap and start wrapping as you go. Once you are completely wrapped, grab a good book, elevate your leg and sit for the next hour. If you need book suggestions, be sure to check out my book blog, A Real Page Turner.

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Does it Work?

Yes! It really does! I really wish I would have measured my leg prior to putting the cabbage on and then after. The after picture that I took is very misleading and doesn’t really show much. But…what I can say is, the compression sleeve that I need to wear with my brace went on WAY easier after and did not feel like it was cutting into my leg. Not to mention, the pain in my thigh where all the swelling seemed to settle, was gone. It was a miracle! The best thing to do is put the cabbage leaves in the fridge before you use them. It feels amazing!

Things to Expect

It will smell…like cabbage. Duh! While it smells like cabbage, it’s not overly smelly like when you boil cabbage or something. My son, who doesn’t like anything that smells abnormal, was able to sit in the same room with me without making comments…well comments about the smell. He definitely made comments about how weird I was! The other thing you need to know before you try this is that when the hour is up, the leaves will be very wet, warm and wilted. It’s actually kind of gross in a fascinating way!

reduce swelling with cabbage


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