Sprained ligament

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What are knee ligaments?

Ligaments are elastic tissues that connect bones and provide stability and strength to the joint. There are four ligaments in the knee: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most commonly injured knee ligament.

 

What causes sprained ligaments?

Most knee ligament sprains are due to sports injuries. The most common cause of injury to cruciate ligaments, including ACL and PCL, is a sudden twisting motion. Stretch and tear injuries to the collateral ligaments are usually caused by a blow to the outer or inner side of the knee.

 

Symptoms 

The severity of symptoms varies significantly from patient to patient. For some patients,  symptoms are not constant and may come and go. Symptoms of a sprain may include:

  • Sudden and severe pain in your knee

  • A loud pop or snap at the time of injury

  • Swelling after the injury

  • Inability to bear weight without pain.

 

When should I seek medical help?

There are circumstances when knee pain might be caused or accompanied by severe issues. If such symptoms are present, it is best to seek immediate medical attention to avoid further complications:

  • A very painful knee that stops you from doing normal daily activities.

  • Unable to bear any weight

  • Badly swollen knees or deformed knees

  • Redness, high temperature, and swelling of the knee may indicate an infection in your knee.

 

Diagnosis

To diagnose strain or sprain of your knee ligaments, your doctor will take your case history and your past medical history into account. They will perform a physical examination which includes palpating (applying pressing to your knees) and moving your knee.

 

If your knee is very swollen, your doctor may use a needle to drain it to reduce the swelling.

X-ray is often needed to make sure there is no fracture. Your doctor may also request an MRI to visualise the damage to the knee ligaments.

 

Treatment

A mild to moderate knee ligament injury may heal on its own. Doing the following can help with your recovery. The RICE protocol is adequate for most sports-related injuries. 

  • Rest. Rest for a few days after the injury. Your doctor may suggest crutches to reduce the pressure on the injured knee. 

  • Ice. Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, every 2-3 hours.

  • Compression. Wear an elastic bandage to prevent further swelling.

  • Elevation. Rest your ankle on a pillow to elevate your leg and reduce swelling.

Other remedies include: 

  • A knee brace can stabilize your knee and prevent further injury.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help with pain and swelling. Ensure you strictly follow the directions for the use of any medication.

  • Physical therapy. Therapists can help you regain strength, flexibility and range of motion in your knees.

 

Surgical treatment could be offered when a cruciate ligament (ACL or PCL) is completely torn, where reconstruction is needed. In this procedure, a surgeon will take tendons from other parts of your body to replace the torn ligament.

 

Prevention

Knee ligament injuries are hard to prevent. However, you can take some precautions that could lower your odds of getting injured.

  • Regular stretching and strengthening of the thigh, ankle and feet muscles. (Don’t forget to increase the intensity of exercise gradually).

  • Warm up with light activities before doing strenuous exercises.

  • Use appropriate shoes to support your body and not undermine your balance when exercising.

  • If you play sports, consult a professional coach or physical trainer on the proper technique that will help avoid sudden movements.