Ligaments are tough but flexible bands of tissue connecting one bone to the other. This band of tissue provides stability to the skeletal system. However, ligaments can be sprained or torn if too much stress is placed on them. Such tears or sprains that happen around the knee are often referred to as knee ligament injuries.
What Are Knee Ligament Injuries?
Knee ligament injuries are sprains and tears in the knee. They cause lots of pain and may limit your ability to do things properly. There are four of these ligaments in the knee that are quite susceptible to injuries. These ligaments are…
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
The ACL connects the shin bone in the knee to the thigh bone. It is responsible for the control of the forward motion of the body on a leg firmly fixed to the ground. ACL is the knee ligament that is commonly injured. If injured, treatment involves replacement or repair of the ACL. The rehabilitation process includes physical therapy which can be lengthy.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
Just like the ACL, the PCL connects the shin bone in the knee to the thigh bone. Unlike ACL, the PCL is not commonly injured. If injured, repair does not often require surgery. This ligament is mostly injured when you fall directly on the knee. Depending on the treatment plan, recovery often involves rest, bracing, and gradual strengthening of the PCL.
Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)
The LCL is the bone connecting the thigh bone to the fibula. The fibula is the small bone of the lower leg that is outside of the knee. This ligament is mostly injured when stress is placed on the outside or inside of the leg. Most times, this injury does not require surgery. The treatment plan for LCL injury is the same as for the PCL.
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)
The MCL links the shin bone inside of the knee to the thigh bone. Just like LCL, injury to the MCL happens when stress is placed on the outside or inside of the leg. The same treatment procedure as that of PCL and LCL applies to MCL injuries.
How Does A Knee Ligament Injury Feel?
Injury to the anterior cruciate ligament is the most common of all types of knee injuries. This injury is prevalent among gymnasts, skiers, basketball players, and soccer players. Non-athletes can also suffer injury to their ACL. Men are less likely than women to tear their ACL.
When you tear your ACL, you are likely to experience the following:
• Sharp and severe pain
• A loud snap or pop during injury
• Swelling within minutes to a few hours of the injury
• Feeling of looseness in the knee joints when you walk
• Pain when you put weight on the knee joint
How Is A Knee Ligament Injury Diagnosed?
A physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon, or athletic trainer may examine you immediately after an injury. When you go for physical therapy or chiropractic care, expect thorough evaluations that include a review of your medical history. To determine the likelihood that it is an ACL tear, hands-on tests may be performed.
Additional tests may be carried out to determine the extent of damage to other parts of your knee. Further tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may be done by an orthopedic surgeon. These tests are necessary to confirm the diagnosis and know the extent to which the injury has affected your knee.
How Can A Physical Therapist/Chiropractor Help With Knee Ligament Damage?
After the diagnosis of an ACL tear is confirmed, you will have to work with your physical therapist/chiropractor and surgeon to know if surgery is required for your recovery. If surgery is not required, you will have to work with your physical therapist/chiropractor to restore your body balance, agility, and muscle strength.
You will learn ways to modify the physical activities that you do, so as not to put too much stress on the knee. However, if surgery is required, your physical therapist/chiropractor can help you before and after the surgery. Therefore, the role they will play is vital if your knee ligament injury does not require surgery, or if it requires surgery, as well as after the surgery.
Physical Therapy When Surgery Is Not Required
Bracing, a progressive exercise program, and relative rest are the non-surgical treatments for injury to knee ligament damage. By using soft tissue work and modalities, a physical therapist/chiropractor will help you deal with the pain at an early stage. You can begin light intensity exercises almost immediately and you can progress as your tolerance allows.
Treatment Of A Knee Ligament Injury Before Surgery
If surgery is required as determined by your orthopedic surgeon, you will still work with your physical therapist/chiropractor before surgery. In some cases, a short course of rehabilitation is recommended before surgery. In the course of rehabilitation, work will be done to strengthen the muscles on your thighs, improve your range of motion, and decrease your swelling
The following are the guidelines recommended before surgery:
• Immobilizing the knee
• Controlling the pain and swelling
• Restoration of your normal range of motion
• Development of muscle strength
Treatment Of A Knee Ligament Injury After Surgery
Post-surgery instructions will be given to your physical therapist or chiropractor by your orthopedic surgeon. A treatment plan will be based on your goals and needs. Some of the activities in the treatment program may include:
• Bearing weight
• Icing and compression
• Movement exercises
• Electrical stimulation
• Strengthening exercises
• Balance exercises
Prevention Of Knee Ligament Injury
It is difficult to prevent knee ligament injuries. However, taking certain precautions can reduce the likelihood of injury. Some of the precautions may involve:
• Regular stretching and strengthening of your thigh muscles to keep them strong
• Warming up with light intensity exercises before taking part in tougher ones
• Maintaining flexibility
Both athletes and non–athletes can injure their knee ligaments. Depending on the extent of your injury, treatment may or may not require surgery. Notwithstanding, physical therapy and/or chiropractic care can be beneficial in both cases.