The ligaments in your knees are strong enough to handle the rigors of everyday life. As strong as they are, however, they are not immune to damage. Injuries to the knee ligaments can be debilitating, painful, and frightening when they first happen. But, they do not have to slow you down permanently. Treatment options for this injury are now more advanced than ever, and getting back on your feet can be a simple matter.
What Are Knee Ligaments?
Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect the bones of the skeletal system to one another. They provide support and stability to your joints during movement. In your knees, there are four major ligaments that connect your femur (thigh bone) to your tibia (shin bone):
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) runs diagonally across the front of your knee, connecting the front of your tibia to the back of your femur. The ACL controls rotation and extension of the knee, such as when standing from a sitting or kneeling position.
- Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) runs diagonally across the back of your knee, connecting the front of your femur to the back of your tibia. The PCL is responsible for bending the knee, such as when sitting down or kneeling.
- Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) runs between the femur and the tibia on the inner side of the knee. It stabilizes and protects the knee joint from forces exerted on the side of the leg, and helps to reduce the amount of side-to-side motion the knee goes through.
- Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) runs between the femur and the tibia on the outer side of the knee. It also stabilizes and protects the knee joint from forces exerted on the side of the leg, and limits sideways motion in the knee.
There are also muscles that surround the knee joint, particularly the quadriceps in your thighs and the hamstrings in your legs. These are among some of the strongest muscles in your body, so it’s easy to understand why the knee joint needs all the protection from outside forces that it can get.
How Do Ligaments Get Injured?
Cruciate Ligament Injuries
Ligament injuries tend to be tears, and range in severity from microscopic tears that cause swelling and mild discomfort to complete tears that cause intense pain and immobility in the knee. These injuries have a number of causes:
- Quick pivoting or twisting motions where the knee moves but the foot remains planted. These are most common in sports where sudden changes in direction during rapid movement occur.
- Hyperextension of the knee where the joint moves beyond its natural range of motion. Sometimes, during improper landings after a jump, the knee straightens out more than it should, which causes the ligament to tear.
- Direct impact. A sharp blow to the front or side of the knee, such as during a mistimed football tackle, can force the knee backward. This places undue stress on the ligament, causing it to hyperextend until it tears.
The ACL is less sturdy than the PCL and is more prone to be being injured. ACL tears are one of the most common knee injuries sustained in most sports.
Collateral Ligament Injuries
The medial collateral ligament is injured more often than the lateral collateral ligament. These injuries are usually caused by a direct impact to the side of the knee. They can also be injured in the same twisting motion that would injure the cruciate ligament.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Knee Ligament Injury?
The symptoms of a ligament injury can vary in form and severity depending on the extent to which the ligament has been torn. They include:
- A popping or snapping feeling inside your knee
- Significant swelling of the knee mere hours after tearing the ligament
- The knee joint buckling or “giving way” when you attempt to put weight on it
- Severe pain that prevents movement (However, ACL tears sometimes do not cause pain)
- Bruising or discoloration around the knee
How Is A Ligament Injury Treated?
Treatments for torn ligaments vary, and they highly depend on the severity of the injury, as well as whether there is another injury present. For mild tears, at-home treatments can be sufficient. This includes keeping the leg elevated, using ice and compression to fight swelling, resting the knee joint as much as possible, and taking anti-inflammatory painkillers to manage the discomfort. More severe injuries may require you to seek professional assistance
No matter what the solution for a torn ligament, it’s important that you talk to a physician at your earliest possible convenience. At Southern Pain Clinic, highly qualified professionals are available to help you get your life back on track. Knee ligament injuries don’t have to keep you down for long. Contact us for more information, or to request a consultation.