The knee is comprised of four major ligaments, the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), the MCL (medial collateral ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament). Each of these ligaments is critical to the stability of the knee. When one of these ligaments is injured, it is known as a knee sprain.
Causes of Knee Sprains
A knee sprain usually occurs due to unnatural movements during physical activity. Sudden turns or pivoting can cause injury to your ligaments. Knee sprains are common in sports with lots of running, jumping, and turning, such as in football, basketball, and skiing.
Direct hits to the knee can also cause knee sprains. The most obvious example is in contact sports, when there may be physical contact between two players or the ground. An incident such as falling or a car accident can also cause knee sprains.
Symptoms of Knee Sprains
Many patients suffering from knee sprains hear a popping noise at the time of injury. Pain and tenderness in the knee accompanied by stiffness and swelling are common signs of a knee sprain. Some patients may also experience bruising and instability when walking. In more severe cases, the patient may have trouble bearing weight on the affected leg.
How to Treat Knee Sprains
A knee sprain is not an ideal diagnosis because it does not tell you which ligament is injured or how severely it is injured. If you suspect that you have a knee sprain, consult a physician to undergo further diagnosis.
Minor knee sprains may heal over time with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). Patients can also control pain and inflammation by taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Wearing a brace or compression sleeve for the sprain will also help provide the added stability you need while healing. More serious injuries such as a torn ACL may require surgery and physical therapy.
As with any injury, your doctor will be the best source of advice on the appropriate treatment method for your situation.