Knee Ligament Injuries: PCL, LCL, MCL, and ACL Injury
What's the Treatment for a Knee Ligament Injury?
Happily, a mild to moderate knee ligament injury may heal on its own given time. To speed the healing, you can:
- Rest the knee. Avoid putting excess weight on your knee. You may need to use crutches for a time.
- Ice your knee to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days, or until the pain and swelling is gone.
- Compress your knee. Use an elastic bandage, straps, or sleeves on your knee to control swelling.
- Elevate 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. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, will help with pain and swelling. However, these drugs can have side effects and they should be used only occasionally, unless your doctor specifically says otherwise.
- Practice stretching and strengthening exercises if your doctor recommends them.
For severe collateral ligament tears, you may need surgery to attach the ligament back to the bone if it was pulled away or to the other part of the ligament if it was torn in the middle.
Unfortunately, the cruciate ligaments -- the ACL and PCL -- cannot be repaired. Once they are completely torn or stretched beyond their limits, that's it. The only option is a reconstruction. In this procedure, tendons are taken from other parts of your leg or a cadaver to replace the torn ligament.
A ligament reconstruction for an ACL or PCL injury is complicated and involved. It's not the right choice for everyone. Some people who have pain or severe instability in their knees may choose to have it. So might professional athletes -- or devoted amateurs -- who really want to return to their previous level of activity.
But if the pain is not a problem, you may choose to skip the surgery and accept the risk of some permanent weakness and instability in your leg. You may also opt for a custom-made brace. Talk over the treatment options with your doctor.
When Will I Feel Better After a Knee Ligament Injury?
Recovery time depends on how severe your knee ligament injury is. People also heal at different rates. While you recover -- If your doctor agrees -- you could take up a new activity that won't hurt your knee. For instance, runners could try swimming.
Whatever you do, don't rush things. Don't try to return to your old level of physical activity until:
- You feel no pain when you bend or straighten your knee.
- You feel no pain in your knee when you walk, jog, sprint, or jump.
- Your knee is no longer swollen.
- Your knee feels as strong as your uninjured knee.
If you start using your knee before it's healed, you could cause permanent damage.