What is a knee sprain?
A knee sprain occurs when ligaments within or around the knee are stretched and torn. The severity of a knee sprain is determined by the degree of injury to the ligaments:
- In a mild, or first-degree sprain, the stretched ligaments cause pain and swelling
- In a moderate, or second-degree sprain, mild tears of the ligaments create instability in the knee joint; it is more disabling than a mild sprain
- In a severe, or third-degree sprain, there is a compete rupture of the ligaments, often requiring surgical repair
What causes a knee sprain?
Knee ligaments may be injured during athletic or occupational activities involving sudden force. Knee sprains may be caused by:
- Forced twisting of the knee
- Stopping suddenly while running
- Shifting your weight while running or skiing
- Landing awkwardly after jumping
- A blow to the outer or inner side of the knee
- A blow to the front of the knee while the knee is bent and the foot is firmly planted on the ground
What are the symptoms of a knee sprain?
Symptoms of a knee sprain depend on the location and severity of the knee ligaments damaged. Some symptoms may include the following:
- Stiffness or decreased movement
- Pain or tenderness
- Painful pop that you can hear or feel
- Swelling or bruising
- Knee that buckles or gives out when you try to walk
How is a knee sprain diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. The range of motion in your knee will be evaluated and assessed for stability. X-rays and MRI scans may also be done to confirm an injury. In some cases, arthroscopy (a minimally invasive procedure) may be performed to look inside your knee.
How is a sprain treated?
Depending on the severity of your sprain, your physician may prescribe exercise, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and/or cortisone injections. Supportive braces may need to be worn to allow your ligaments to heal. In cases that don’t respond to other care, surgery may be required.
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