If you’ve ever had any sort of injury, especially a knee injury, you probably appreciate how your knees power you through various sports and activities: kicking, jumping, running, and pivoting. To avoid knee injuries, it is important to understand how your knees work and what you can do to protect them.
What’s in a Knee?
The knee is a joint; while it is the largest joint in the body, it’s also the most complicated. Your knees provide stability and allow your legs to bend, swivel, and straighten. The knee is made up of bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, all working as one. What makes knee injuries complicated is they could be caused by stress or damage to any of these parts. The knee sits in the middle of three bones: the tibia (your shinbone), the femur (your thighbone), and the patella (the kneecap). The patella is a flat and round bone that protects the knee joint.
What is an MCL tear?
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is a broad, thick band that runs down the inner part of the knee, from the thighbone to the shinbone. The MCL’s primary function is to prevent the leg from over-extending inward, but it also is part of the mechanism that stabilizes the knee and allows it to rotate.
Injuries to the MCL commonly occur because of a strong force hitting the outside of the knee that causes the MCL, and, possibly other ligaments on the inside of the knee, such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), to stretch or tear.
Initial symptoms of an MCL tear include:
- Pain or tenderness
Symptoms occur along the inner side of the knee (The MCL is located on the side of the knee adjacent to the other knee). Depending on the severity of the injury, pain can range from mild to severe.
On average, it takes at least six weeks for an MCL injury to heal. The initial treatment for most grade 1, 2 or 3 MCL tears focuses on reducing the pain and inflammation in the knee while immobilizing the knee to keep it stabilized. This includes:
· Resting, icing and elevating the knee
· Taking pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicine such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen to ease pain and swelling
· Wearing a lightweight cast or brace that allows your knee to move backward and forward while restricting side-to-side movement. It’s usually recommended to keep the knee immobilized like this for 72 hours, depending on the severity of the injury.
The cast or brace may be designed so that you cannot bend your knee at all. If this is the case, you will need to modify your behavior so that you can avoid having to squat, kneel or bend over. You should try to keep your leg elevated even if you are sitting in a chair, to reduce blood flow to the knee.
To find out more information on how to treat an MCL tear call Dr. Bill Hefley at (800) 336-2412 to request an appointment.