Knee Ligament Injuries and Treatment
What are Knee Ligament Injuries?
Ligaments are bands of tough, elastic connective tissue that surround a joint to give support and limit the joint’s movement.
When ligaments are damaged, the knee joint may become unstable. Ligament damage often happens from a sports injury. A torn ligament severely limits knee movement. This results in the inability to pivot, turn, or twist the leg. Surgery is a choice to repair a torn ligament if other medical treatment is not effective.
The knee has 4 major ligaments. The 4 knee ligaments connect the thighbone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). They are:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This ligament is in the center of the knee. It controls rotation and forward movement of the shin bone.
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). This ligament is in the back of the knee. It controls backward movement of the shin bone.
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL). This ligament gives stability to the inner knee.
- Lateral collateral ligament (LCL). This ligament gives stability to the outer knee.
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Symptoms of Knee Ligament Injury
A cruciate ligament injury often causes pain. Often you may hear a popping sound when the injury happens. Then your buckles when you try to stand on it. The knee also swells. You also are not able to move your knee as you normally would. You may also pain along the joint and pain when walking. The symptoms of a cruciate ligament injury may seem like other health conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Collateral ligament injury
An injury to the collateral ligament also causes the knee to pop and buckle. It also causes pain and swelling. Often you will have pain at the sides of the knee and swelling over the injury site. If it is an MCL injury, the pain is on the inside of the knee. An LCL injury may cause pain on the outside of the knee. The knee will also feel unstable, like it is going to give way.
Diagnosis of Shoulder Impingement
Your healthcare provider will ask you to have your health history and do a physical exam. You may also need one or more of these tests:
- X-ray. This imaging test can rule out an injury to bone instead of a ligament injury. It uses energy beams to make images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film.
- MRI. This test uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body. It can often find damage or disease in bones and a surrounding ligament, tendon, or muscle.
- Arthroscopy. This procedure is used to diagnose and treat joint problems. The healthcare provider uses a small, lighted tube (arthroscope) put into the joint through a small cut (incision). Images of the inside of the joint can be seen a screen. The procedure can assess joint problems, find bone diseases and tumors, and find the cause of bone pain and inflammation.
A mild to moderate knee ligament injury may heal on its own, in time. To speed the healing, you can:
Rest the knee. Avoid putting much weight on your knee if it’s painful to do so. You may need to use crutches for a time.
Ice your knee for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to lessen the pain and swelling. Keep doing it for 2 to 3 days, or until the swelling is gone.
Compress your knee. Put an elastic bandage, straps, or sleeves on your knee to control swelling.
Raise your knee on a pillow when you’re sitting or lying down.
Wear a knee brace to stabilize the knee and protect it from further injury.
Take anti-inflammatory painkillers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxyn will help with pain and swelling. Follow the directions exactly. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or feel that you still need them after 7 to 10 days.
Practice stretching and strengthening exercises if your doctor recommends them. Never stretch so much that it hurts. Ask your doctor to recommend a physical therapist for guidance.