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How Do You Sprain Your Knee

Recovery From A Knee Strain Or Sprain

Knee sprain or ACL injury: How to tell the difference

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.

About Knee Sprains And Strains


What Is Knee Sprain?

The knee joint is called a hinge joint because it moves forward and backward but doesnt turn in other directions. Ligaments are tough fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. Two strong ligaments make this hinge stable: the medial andlateral collateral ligaments . Deep in the joint, two more ligaments crisscross each other and attach to the thigh bone at one end and the shinbone at the other. These are the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments .

A knee sprain involves damage to these ligaments. It can be mild, moderate, or severe.

What Causes Knee Sprain?

A sprain occurs when these ligaments stretch or tear. Damage to a collateral ligament can happen when the knee is hit on the opposite side. Damage to a cruciate ligament can occur when the knee joint is twisted or hit directly.

What Are the Symptoms of Knee Sprain?

Symptoms include knee pain and swelling, bruising around the knee, feeling of unsteadiness, knee giving way, and snapping feeling inside the knee.

How Is Knee Sprain Diagnosed?

The health care provider will make a diagnosis by examining the knee, moving it in different directions and testing ligaments. The health care provider may also order x-rays. Magnetic resonance imaging of the knee may be done if pain persists or your health care provider suspects a torn ligament. For a very swollen knee, the doctor may take fluid from the knee with a needle. This may ease pain and helps make the diagnosis.

How Can I Manage A Knee Sprain

  • Rest your knee and do not exercise. Do not walk on your injured leg if you are told to keep weight off your knee. Rest helps decrease swelling and allows the injury to heal. You can do gentle range of motion exercises as directed to prevent stiffness.
  • Apply ice on 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 the bag with a towel before you apply it. 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. It should be tight enough to give support but so tight that it causes your toes to feel numb or tingly. Take the bandage off and rewrap it at least 1 time each 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.

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Surgery For Knee Sprains

In the event that the knee sprain is severe, surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged ligament. Surgery is typically only recommended if the knee sprain is a Grade III .

Typically, a knee ligament surgical repair is done arthroscopically, which is a minimally invasive approach. Arthroscopic surgery involves making a small incision on the front or back of the knee and running a miniature camera into the leg. The camera will be used to assess the extent of the damage to the knee. Once this has been completed, small tools will also be inserted into the knee in order to remove or repair the damaged tissue.

Knee Strain Or Sprain Symptoms

What Kind of Injuries Can Cause Knee Pain?

Knee strains and sprains can range from moderate to severe, and symptoms will vary accordingly.

General symptoms of a knee strain or sprain include:

  • Swelling, pain and tenderness in and around the knee
  • Buckling of the knee
  • Trouble bending the leg

Symptoms of a knee sprain will further depend upon which ligament, or ligaments, have been torn.

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What Are The Symptoms Of A Knee Sprain

The following are sprained knee symptoms:

  • Pain around the affected area
  • Swelling around the sprained section of the knee
  • Knee instability, leading to your knee buckling under the pressure of your weight
  • Bruising, moderate to severe, depending on the sprain
  • A popping sound when the injury occurs
  • Stiffness and decreased movement due to pain
  • Limited to no range of motion
  • Depending on which ligament you injure, your symptoms could differ.

When To See A Doctor

Most people can manage a mild knee sprain at home and recover fully with home exercises. However, it is important to get the opinion of a medical professional if you suspect your knee injury is something more serious. How can you tell if your symptoms are worthy of a visit to the doctor? Here are some telltale signs that your knee injury needs to be looked at:4

  • Your knee is locked
  • You have severe pain and/or significant swelling
  • You cannot put weight on the injured leg
  • Your knee buckles
  • You have sharp pain in a specific location
  • Your symptoms do not improve with home remedies

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Strength And Range Of Motion Exercises

Now that you conquered and overcame the proprioception exercises, its time to increase the strength and range of motion of the knee. You will be doing a series of exercises in the two week period.

In the first week you should do:

Heel Slides
  • Slide your foot back and forward on the surface while bending the knee

  • Do 3 series of 10 reps

  • Dont train through the pain

Straight leg raise
  • Lift your leg while keeping it straight about 5 inches above the surface
  • Do 3 series of 10 reps
  • Grab a roller if youre at the gym, or roll the towel up and place it under your knee
  • Lay flat on the surface
  • Lift the heel up and hold it for 5 seconds
  • Repeat 10 times

In the second week you should advance to some more demanding exercises:

Calf stretches
  • Stand on a step, bring the leg with the injury close to the edge, with your heel off of it.
  • Push your heel down and hold for 30 seconds
  • Feel your calf being stretched and do not train through pain
Quad stretches
  • Stand close to a something you can grab onto, like a chair
  • Lift your foot and grab it with your hand behind your back
  • Pull your foot up and hold for 30 seconds until it hurts too much
Hamstring stretches
  • Sit on a flat surface with injured leg straight and in front of you
  • Reach your toes with both of your hands
  • Hold of 30 seconds as much as the pain allows; its ok if you feel a little bit of pain if it hurts too much, then stop
Single leg squats

You Cant Put Weight On It

Knee Sprain

If its immensely painful to stand or put any weight on your injured knee, theres definitely something serious going on.

Inability to bear weight after a knee injury could be caused by a fracture, bone contusion, cartilage injury or ligament tear, explains Dr. Brown. Initial treatment includes using crutches or a steerable scooter to take pressure off the injured limb and minimize additional damage to the knee.

If this sounds like you, listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Dr. Brown warns that the old adage of no pain, no gain doesnt apply in this situation.

He advises seeking orthopedic evaluation as soon as possibleeven that same day if you can.

After a minor injury like a twist or fall, you might not be able to put weight on your leg immediately. Thats not necessarily a cause for alarm, but if you dont feel like youve recovered within a few minutes, this could indicate something more serious.

Its similar to when you injure a wrist or ankle. If you fall on your wrist or twist your ankle, you may experience searing pain for a moment or two. When the injury isnt severe, youre able to shake it off and resume your life after a few minutes at the most. However, if youve experienced a sprain, the pain doesnt subside. Instead, it gets worse.

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Types Of Knee Sprains Strains & Tears

Doctors at NYU Langone diagnose and manage all types of knee sprains, strains, and tears.

The knee is the largest joint in the body. It consists of ligaments, bones, cartilage, and tendons. Four ligaments, which are tough cords of tissue, connect the thigh bone, or femur, to the lower leg bones, called the tibia and fibula. These ligaments keep the knee stable when a person walks, jumps, bends, or pivots.

In between the femur and tibia is a thick layer of smooth cartilage called the meniscus. This tissue, which is molded to the shape of your bones, helps the knee absorb and distribute body weight during movement. Tendons anchor muscle to bone.

Many knee injuries occur during athletic activitiesparticularly contact sports, such as soccer and football. But everyday mishaps, such as twisting your knee as you step off a curb, may also cause an injury.

How Do I Know If I Sprained My Knee

A knee sprain is a common injury that occurs when one of your four major knee ligaments stretches too far or partially tears. This is often a sports-related injury.

The four ligaments are the;anterior cruciate ligament;,;posterior cruciate ligament;,;medial collateral ligament; and;lateral collateral ligament;, which work together to stabilize your knee joint. The ACL and PCL form an X as they cross each other inside your knee and work together to control the back and forth motion of your knee. The ACL is in the middle of your knee and is responsible for keeping the tibia from sliding in front of the femur . The PCL runs down the back of your knee and prevents the tibia from sliding behind the femur. Your MCL is on the inside of your knee. This ligament makes sure your femur does not swing too far outward. The LCL is across from the MCL on the outside of the knee and also controls the femurs side to side movement.

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You Cant Straighten Your Knee Or Leg

If you have trouble straightening your leg or it hurts to do so, you probably have a serious knee injury.

To test this, start in a seated position and try to lift your lower leg using your own leg muscles. You may still be able to bear weight and walk slowly and carefully without assistance, but will probably require assistance to lift your lower leg and fully extend your injured knee, says Dr. Brown.

Patella fractures, quadriceps tendon tears, and patellar tendon tears all tend to be associated with an inability to straighten the leg.

Use a knee immobilizer to hold the knee in a straight position and help with pain relief. This also makes it easier to move about until your appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, he adds.

Another test is to lie down and try to straighten your leg. The goal is to get your knee to lie flat. This might be difficult or impossible to do due to the pain, but what you should watch out for is a total inability to straighten your knee.

Some of the problems that could cause a locked knee include meniscus tears or a torn ACL. The key is to determine whether you cant straighten your knee due to sheer pain or physical blockage. If you feel blocked, then we recommend getting in touch with a doctor sooner rather than later.

On the flip side, you might have trouble bending your knee. If your knee feels stuck in any way, and the feeling doesnt go away within a few hours, you could be experiencing something more severe.

Causes Of Knee Sprains

How to Heal an MCL Tear in the Knee

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.

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How Long Does It Take To Heal From A Knee Sprain

The exact knee sprain healing time in therapy depends on how bad your injury was and your body. Mild knee sprains usually take around 3 to 6 weeks to heal with therapy. Moderate knee sprains take from 8 to 12 weeks to heal. Here are the details:

Grade I;Grade I;will take a few weeks to fully heal. You will notice the strength return to the ligament at around six weeks as the collagen fibers grow back. Make sure you rest from anything that causes you pain, use the ice, and anti-inflammatories if your doctor recommends them.

Grade II This type of injury takes around six-eight full weeks to heal. You will most likely have to wear a brace when bearing weight on the knee and use a support tape. These things will keep you from over-flexing the knee joint. Your doctor will most likely allow you to return to light duties once your ligament is stable and can hold the joint without pain. You may be sent for physical therapy where they do massage, exercises and electrical stimulation to the muscles.

Grade III The doctor will most likely place you in a brace that has hinged to protect your joint from additional stress while healing. This type of injury usually takes around 3 to 4 months to heal.

How To Treat A Knee Sprain

This article was co-authored by Jonathan Frank, MD. Dr. Jonathan Frank is an Orthopedic Surgeon based in Beverly Hills, California, specializing in sports medicine and joint preservation. Dr. Frank’s practice focuses on minimally invasive, arthroscopic surgery of the knee, shoulder, hip, and elbow. Dr. Frank holds an MD from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. He completed an orthopedic residency at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a fellowship in Orthopedic Sports Medicine and Hip Preservation at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. He is a staff team physician for the US Ski and Snowboard Team. Dr. Frank is currently a scientific reviewer for top peer-reviewed scientific journals, and his research has been presented at regional, national, and international orthopedic conferences, winning several awards including the prestigious Mark Coventry and William A Grana awards.There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 20 testimonials and 82% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 582,537 times.

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Where Are Lcl And Mcl Ligaments Positioned

They are found on each side of the knee. LCL is on the outer side, and MCL is found on the inner side of the knee. They keep the knee in place, and they prevent it from going too far out or too far in. The MCL ligament is a lot more injured than LCL.

Both of these ligaments are most commonly injured in sports. And sports which involve direct physical contact are the ones where these ligaments are very prone to injury.

Are There Different Degrees Of Sprain

How to diagnose a Medial Collateral Ligament injury

Yes, similar to other injuries, there are different degrees of severity with sprains. The degrees are determined by how badly the ligaments in the ankle or wrist are injured.

  • Mild sprain: There is only a little stretching of the ligaments.
  • Moderate sprain: There is a combination of stretching and a little tearing of the ligament.
  • Severe sprain: There is a complete tear of the ligament.

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Knee Strain Or Sprain Diagnosis

When diagnosing a possible knee sprain or strain, your doctor will ask about how the pain started, including whether the pain started immediately following in injury, or developed gradually over time.

Your doctor will also examine the affected knee, looking for:

  • Swelling

Your doctor may recommend the following imaging procedures as well:

  • X-ray
  • Arthroscopy

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.

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