How To Treat Knee Sprains
A knee sprain is not an ideal diagnosis because it does not tell you which ligament is injured or how severely it is injured. If you suspect that you have a knee sprain, consult a physician to undergo further diagnosis.
Minor knee sprains may heal over time with rest, ice, compression and elevation . Patients can also control pain and inflammation by taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Wearing a brace or compression sleeve for the sprain will also help provide the added stability you need while healing. More serious injuries such as a torn ACL may require surgery and physical therapy.
As with any injury, your doctor will be the best source of advice on the appropriate treatment method for your situation.
How Can I Decrease Pain And Swelling
- Apply ice to your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
- Apply compression to your knee as directed. You may need to wear an elastic bandage. This helps keep your injured knee from moving too much while it heals. You can loosen or tighten the elastic bandage to make it comfortable. It should be tight enough for you to feel support. It should not be so tight that it causes your toes to be numb or tingly. If you are wearing an elastic bandage, take it off and rewrap it once a day.
- Elevate your knee above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably. Do not put pillows directly behind your knee.
Should I See A Doctor For Knee Sprain Treatment
If you suspect you have sprained your knee, try and restrict movement and physical activity. Its recommended that you ice your knee in intervals of 15 to 20 minutes to combat swelling. Within a day or so of your injury, youll have a good idea how severe your sprain is based on the pain and discomfort you feel trying to move. If the pain is still intense and youre struggling to move around, youll want to see a healthcare provider to determine the severity of the injury and to make sure you didnt tear one of your knee ligaments.
Your healthcare provider will examine your injured knee and check for swelling, tenderness, discoloration, and fluid inside the knee joint, among other symptoms. He or she may also test your range of motion and the strength of your ligaments. To determine the source of a more severe injury, your physician may order additional diagnostic tests. The initial visit will likely entail and exam of the knee and x-rays. If there is a concern for significant ligament or cartilage injury, you will be referred on to an orthopedist and may ultimately need an MRI.
Grade 3 knee sprains or sprains involving damage to multiple ligaments will likely require surgery. This may involve the reconstruction of one or more ligaments using tissue from you or a donor.
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What Is A Knee Sprain
A knee sprain happens when knee ligaments get stretched or torn.
These ligaments are bands of strong fibrous tissue around our joints. All your freely movable joints have them your knees, ankles, wrists, and even your spine.
Ligaments hold bones together, keeping our joints stable. This means ligaments arent elastic. If they were, they wouldnt be able to provide joint stability.
Now, we have four main ligaments to keep the knee joint stable.
Most Common Knee Injuries
The knee is the largest joint of the body, and is also one of the most commonly injured joints. Bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons work together to form your knee joint and allow you to bend your leg. Because of all the moving parts on the knee and the sensitive nature of the joint, its very prone to multiple types of injuries.
If youre experiencing knee pain, its likely that youre suffering from one of the most common knee injuries. Well help you understand the makeup of the knee, as well as how to identify the symptoms of a knee injury. However, only your orthopaedic doctor can determine what injury youre dealing with.
Anatomy of the Knee
Within the knee joint are three bones: the femur , the tibia , and the patella . These three bones meet to form the knee joint. Articular cartilage covers the ends of the femur and the tibia, as well as the back of the patella. The cartilage allows the bones of the knee joint to smoothly glide against one another as you bend or straighten your leg. The meniscus is a tough and rubbery wedge-shaped cartilage located between your femur and tibia. The meniscus cartilage cushions the joint and also acts as a shock-absorber between the femur and tibia bones.
The tendons within your knee connect the muscles to the bones. The quadriceps tendon is located in the front of your thigh and connects those muscles to the patella. The patellar tendon connects your patella to your shinbone.
1. Knee Fracture
2. Knee Dislocation
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Prevention Of Knee Injuries
There are several things you can do to reduce your chance of damaging your knee ligaments. This will help to prevent other sports injuries too.
- Exercise regularly to keep your fitness levels up, and include some resistance training . Regular exercise will make your muscles stronger and more flexible, so they can support your joints, including your knees. If you haven’t been active for a while, start off gently and gradually increase the number, length and intensity of your exercise sessions.
Housemaids knee is the common name for prepatellar bursitis. Its often caused by the pressure of kneeling forwards for long periods. These days, prepatellar bursitis is often seen in carpet fitters or roofers anyone who spends a lot of time working on their knees.
See our Types of knee injury section for more information.
Visit The Urgency Room To Treat Your Knee Sprain
If you suffered a nasty knee sprain or if one of your kids hurt their knee, come visit us at theUrgency Room and have one of our experienced physicians treat the injury. We have three convenient locations in Woodbury, Vadnais Heights, and Eagan.
By coming to the Urgency Room, you wont have to sit in the waiting room for long while your knee sprain gets worse. Wait times at the Urgency Room are usually under 15 minutes, and you can check out live waiting room times at each location here. By checking the wait time before you arrive, youll avoid an unexpected lengthy visit, such as is often the case when you seek treatment at the ER.
Each Urgency Room is owned and operated by the Emergency Physicians ProfessionalAssociation and is staffed with highly qualified and experienced physicians, nurses, and medical technicians. Check out our comprehensive medical services offered when you need it most. Each location is open 365 days per year, including holidays, from 8 A.M. to 10 P.M.
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Causes Of Knee Sprains
Any activity that forces your knee out of its natural position can cause a sprain.
The ACL is often injured when you play a running or contact sport like soccer, basketball, football, or gymnastics, usually as a result of jumping or twisting suddenly.
It can also occur if you over-straighten your knee to an extreme degree or if you get struck by something in the knee or lower leg.
The PCL can be injured in a car collision when your knee hits the dashboard, or in a sport where the front of your knee is hit while its bent. Falling hard on your knee can also cause a PCL sprain.
You can sprain your LCL if you receive a blow to the inside of your knee. This is less common than the other types of sprains because your other leg protects this area.
An MCL sprain is usually caused by something hitting your leg from the side, or a fall that causes your lower leg to twist outward from your thigh.
How To Treat A Knee Sprain
To determine if you have a knee sprain, your Raleigh Orthopaedic sports medicine physician will ask you for a complete medical history, have you describe your symptoms and how the knee injury occurred and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray or MRI may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and determine if there are other problems.
The fastest way to heal a knee sprain is resting the injury at home and physical therapy.
There are several treatment options for a knee sprain. In most cases, you wont need surgery. An ACL tear is the most likely ligament to need surgery.
- Physical therapy exercises
- Over the counter pain medication
If surgery is necessary, it will be done arthroscopically, which means there will be a few small incisions made and it will usually take place at Raleigh Orthopaedic Surgery Center as an outpatient surgical procedure.
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Recovery From A Knee Strain Or Sprain
It is important to work with your physician closely before you return to your everyday routine. When recovered, you should be able to perform simple exercises such as squatting, running, side to side motions and jumping without pain.
A mild sprain is healed after six weeks of resting and treating the knee. A severe strain or sprain can take as long as three to four months. The exact recovery time will depend on the treatment plan that your doctor and physical therapist recommend for you as well as the nature of the injury.
How Do I Perform Knee Stretches Safely
Always stretch before you do strengthening exercises. Do these stretching exercises again after you do the strengthening exercises. Do these stretches 4 or 5 days a week, or as directed.
- Heel slides: Sit or lie on the floor and put your legs out straight in front of you. Bend your knee so your foot is flat on the floor. Slowly slide your heel toward your buttocks. Keep your foot on the floor. You can also use a towel to help bring your foot back. Slowly slide your foot back to the starting position.
- Standing calf stretch: Face a wall and place both palms flat on the wall, or hold the back of a chair for balance. Keep a slight bend in your knees. Take a big step backward with one leg. Keep your other leg directly under you. Keep both heels flat and press your hips forward. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then relax for 30 seconds. Switch legs. Repeat 2 or 3 times on each leg.
- Standing quadriceps stretch: Stand and place one hand against a wall or hold the back of a chair for balance. With your weight on one leg, bend your other leg and grab your ankle. Bring your heel toward your buttocks. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch legs. Repeat 2 or 3 times on each leg.
- Sitting hamstring stretch: Sit with both legs straight in front of you. Do not point or flex your toes. Place your palms on the floor and slide your hands forward until you feel the stretch. Do not round your back. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
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Fractures Bursa Inflammation And Patellar Injuries
Fractures of the bones of knee are relatively common. The patella, or kneecap, may fracture due to a fall directly onto it or in car accidents, when the knee is driven into the dashboard. If the bone is displaced , surgery may be required for repair, but if the bone is in good position, a knee immobilizer and watchful waiting may be all that is required.
The head of the fibula on the lateral side of the knee joint can be fractured either by a direct blow or as part of an injury to the shin or ankle. This bone usually heals with little intervention, but fractures of this bone can have a major complication. The peroneal nerve wraps around the bone and can be damaged by the fracture. This will cause a foot drop, so do not be surprised if the physician examines your foot when you complain of knee problems.
With jumping injuries, the surface of the tibia can be damaged, resulting in a fracture to the tibial plateau. The mechanism of injury is jumping and landing on a fully extended, straightened knee. Since the femoral condyle sits on the tibial plateau to make the knee joint, it is important that it heals with the most even joint surface as possible to prevent future arthritis and chronic pain. For that reason, after plain X-rays reveal this fracture, a CT scan may be done to make certain that there is no displacement of the bones. This type of fracture may require surgery for repair.
How Is A Knee Sprain Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury and examine you. Tell him or her if you heard a snap or pop when you were injured. Your provider will check the movement and strength of your joint. You may be asked to move the joint. You may also need any of the following:
- An x-ray, CT scan or MRI may show the sprain or other damage. You may be given contrast liquid to help your injury show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
- Arthroscopy is a procedure to look inside your joint with a scope. The scope is a long tube with a magnifying glass, a camera, and a light on the end.
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What Are The Types And Causes Of Knee Injuries
While direct blows to the knee will occur, the knee is more susceptible to twisting or stretching injuries , taking the joint through a greater range of motion than it was meant to tolerate.
If the knee is stressed from a specific direction, then the ligament trying to hold it in place against that force can stretch or tear. These injuries are called sprains. Sprains are graded as first, second, or third degree based upon how much damage has occurred. Grade-one sprains stretch the ligament but don’t tear the fibers grade-two sprains partially tear the fibers, but the ligament remains intact and grade-three tears completely disrupt the ligament.
Twisting injuries to the knee put stress on the cartilage or meniscus and can pinch them between the tibial surface and the edges of the femoral condyle, potentially causing tears.
Injuries of the muscles and tendons surrounding the knee are caused by acute hyperflexion or hyperextension of the knee or by overuse. These injuries are called strains. Strains are graded similarly to sprains, with first-degree strains stretching muscle or tendon fibers but not tearing them, second-degree strains partially tearing the muscle tendon unit, and third-degree strains completely tearing it.
There can be inflammation of the bursas of the knee that can occur because of direct blows or chronic use and abuse.
Causes Of A Knee Strain Or Sprain
- Injuries trauma, sports injuries or falls that overstretch the joints and soft tissue that surround the knee and cause a knee sprain or strain.
- Overuse building up too quickly in a sport, such as running, can overwhelm the body and lead to knee strains or sprains.
- Muscle weakness muscles that cant support the knee joints can cause a knee strain or sprain.
- Reduced flexibility tight muscles can restrict joint motion and lead to functional weaknesses at the knee joint to cause a knee strain or sprain.
- Running form overpronating when running or walking can increase stress to the knee and cause a knee strain or sprain.
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How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Knee Sprain
Rehabilitation varies based on the injured ligament and how it is treated. The most important part of the healing process is getting you back to normal before resuming activities.
Rehabilitation will include a light to moderate physical therapy program, depending on your level of pain. This is necessary to improve joint stability, full range of motion and your knee strength. Recovery time is dependent on the ligament injured and the severity of the injury.
Surgery For Knee Injuries
Your doctor or physiotherapist may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for some knee injuries. You may need surgery to repair the damage to your knee especially if other treatments havent worked.
Your surgeon is more likely to suggest you have an operation if you have one of the following injuries.
- Youve torn your anterior cruciate ligament , especially if you do a lot of sport or have also torn a meniscus. In ACL reconstruction, your surgeon will take a piece of tendon to replace the damaged ligament.
- Your knee is still painful or locks after an injury to your meniscus. Your surgeon may repair or partially remove your damaged meniscus.
- Youve injured your medial collateral ligament and it hasnt healed after three months of other treatments. Your surgeon may repair or reconstruct your MCL.
You may be able to have a type of keyhole surgery called knee arthroscopy to get to the damaged area of your knee.
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