How to Treat a Sprained Knee



Any injury taken to the body has the ability to ruin plans for the next few weeks to months of a person's life. Unfortunately, the act of spraining a knee falls into this category. Knee sprains vary greatly depending on the severity, making it difficult for one to know how to treat them, or when to visit the doctor for that matter.

This article will look at everything that an individual needs to know in regards to a sprained knee, and most importantly, how to treat it so that it can be a smoother transition for getting back to normal, everyday life.

What Is a Knee Sprain?

Located on and around the knee are tissues that hold the bone in place. Ligaments are made up of several of these tissues. In fact, there are four ligaments in total that are responsible for the care of a knee. In the event that these ligaments are stretched too far at a sudden moment, a sprain or tear will occur.

Unfortunately, if an individual were to damage one of the four ligaments located near the knee, one might experience pain elsewhere. One torn ligament means that the others may have been torn in the process, or that they are now working double time.

It’s important to relay that injuries like these can drastically worsen when left untreated.

Knee Sprain vs Tear

Based on the description of a sprained knee, one might think that there isn’t much of a difference between a sprain and a tear. This is only partially true. Both injuries involve the same movements, but a tear is far worse than a sprain. Within the types of knee tears, there are three. They all are rather painful for the affected individual, with varying levels of recovery times.

Depending on the severity, a torn ligament will take a lot longer to heal than a sprained knee. There are different degrees of sprain to correctly identify one's condition. A mild sprain is where the ligament has been stretched without having been strained to the point that the joint is unstable. When the ligament is torn but partially separated from the bone, it is a moderate sprain. Ligaments that are entirely torn or separated from the bone are referred to as a severe sprain.

knee Sprain Symptoms

When one first experiences the injury itself, they may feel a sharp pain around the knee. Although not every time, some knee sprains will also have the sound of a popping action to accompany the pain and swelling. Depending on how bad of a sprain it is, the individual may not be able to place much weight on the injured knee.

Once the initial pain has subsided, there will be several sprained knee symptoms that will need to be treated or lessened so as to help with the recovery process. These sprained knee symptoms:

  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Spasms
  • Cramping
  • Tenderness or pain
  • Hindered/decreased movement
  • Buckling when placing weight on the injured leg

How Is a Sprained Knee Diagnosed?

Identifying a sprained knee at home involves checking those symptoms off of the list. Is there pain or swelling around the knee? Knee instability also tends to pinpoint some sort of strain or tear. Going in to see a doctor is critical in the recovery process where a knee sprain diagnosis can take place.

A routine knee sprain diagnosis involves:

  • Physical exam: The doctor will look at the knee and evaluate how the ligaments are functioning. It is crucial that the injured individual is relaxed during this examination.
  • Medical history evaluation: What’s happened to the knee leading up to that injury will identify any previous injuries that have resurfaced. Knowing the symptom’s of an old injury will help to compare the trauma and weak points of the current issue at hand.
  • Imaging: Generally through an X-Ray or MRI, medical imaging allows professionals to see how severe the injury. There may have been cartilage or bones that were also injured in the process.

How to Treat a Sprained Knee?

Treating a knee sprain starts with not using it to avoid further injury. The first action the individual will want to do is actually nothing at all. This is where the R.I.C.E. method should be implemented. R.I.C.E. stands for the following:

  • Rest: Keep yourself from using your knee as much as possible to limit further risk of injuring your knee further.
  • Ice: Placing ice that has been wrapped up in a towel or cold compress will reduce any swelling, making it more comfortable. Icing should only happen in fifteen-minute intervals with a break between.
  • Compression: Chances are that your knee will be inflamed. Lightly wrap these areas in elasticized bandages.
  • Elevate: Resting with your knee held in a position that is above your hips will further reduce swelling and keep circulation flowing smoothly.

There are additional measures that one can take to ensure that a sprained knee heals properly. Utilizing a knee brace will protect it from becoming more injured. Anti-inflammatory medication can also lessen the pain that one experiences while the knee recuperates. These include painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. We advise that you use the recommended dose and visit with your doctor if the pain lasts longer than a week.

Knee Sprain Recovery Time

One common question is, "How long does a sprained knee take to heal?" A completely healed sprain is one that allows the individual to move their knee without the presence of pain or swelling. The knee sprain recovery time depends heavily on how bad the injury was.

Knee sprain injuries are measured in “grades” of severity. Grade 1 is characterized by a more mild injury while grade 2 resembles a knee tear. Grade 3 is a complete tear altogether.

So then, how long does a sprained knee take to heal? Grades 1 and 2 take anywhere between two and four weeks if the individual practices rest and proper healing. Grade 3 tends to need the assistance of surgery to correct the damage that has already been sustained. The recovery time for this surgery is between four to six months.

Knee Sprain Exercises

Injuring one’s knee will cause stiffness, even after the injury has been fully healed. Diligently completing exercises will help to build back that strength, especially where the ligaments fall in line with the knee. This will also decrease the probability of an injury happening again in the future.

Exercises should be performed three to four times per day. It’s better for a recovering knee to spread out these exercises throughout the day. We recommend repeating exercises once every few hours. Another tip is that although it is important to work the affected knee, one should also build strength in the other leg for added stability.

Static quads

  • Sit on the floor with legs in front of you.
  • Keep one knee planted to the floor while the other leg is bent at the knee.
  • Pull your toes up towards the ceiling and hold this for five seconds.
  • Place both legs flat on the ground and relax for an additional five seconds.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Range of movement

  • Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you with knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Bend one knee and straighten it without forcing the motion or causing pain.
  • If you do experience pain, bend it less.
  • Repeat on the other leg after a five-second rest.

Wall heel slides

  • Lie with your back on the floor and place both feet on a wall that is close to you.
  • Slide your feet down on the wall until your knee is bent, being careful not to push it.
  • Hold this position for fifteen seconds and slide up to match the other leg.
  • Repeat on the same side between rest.

Hamstring curls

  • Stand behind a chair and hold onto the back. You may also use a wall.
  • Bring up your affected knee and raise your heels towards the ceiling so long as it does not cause pain.
  • Hold for five seconds and then place your leg back down.
  • Relax for another five seconds and repeat with the other leg.

For additional exercises to add to your regimen, check out the following information provided by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Knee sprains are an unfortunate injury to have and can take weeks or months to heal. There is a lot to know about these types of injuries such as knee sprain vs tear, knee sprain exercises, and how to treat a sprained knee. We suggest that if you have had a recent sprain to go see a professional, put your feet up, and follow a routine exercise regime to build up strength once you are healed. This will ensure that your knee is ready to help you in your everyday activities without a heightened chance of being injured a second or third time. Jump to top

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