The MCL has a good blood supply and usually can heal itself after a few weeks of rest. Treatment of an MCL injury varies upon the severity of the injury.
While the injury is still very painful and swollen, the initial treatment recommendations are:
- Apply ice to the injury to reduce swelling
- Elevate the knee above the heart to reduce swelling
- Take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen to help alleviate pain and swelling
- Use crutches to keep weight off the knee, once pain and swelling have gone down
Once the pain and swelling of the knee have subsided, rehabilitation can begin to regain strength and prevent further injury. Some of the ways in which the knee can be strengthened are:
- Physical therapy exercises to strengthen muscles and improve range of motion, taking care to go slow to avoid further damage
- Wear a brace, that allows the knee to bend front to back, but limits side-to-side motion, during any physical activity
- Limit any activities that can cause injury, i.e., contact sports
When Surgery Is Necessary
If the MCL was torn in such a way that it cannot repair itself, surgery is the next step. Surgery is also necessary when there are multiple ligament injuries in the same knee. MCL surgery is performed arthroscopically, with tiny incisions in the knee. The surgeon will use a tiny camera to locate the injury site. To reattach the MCL to the bone, the surgeon has several options including, large stitches, bone staples, a metal screw or a suture anchor. If the MCL was torn in the middle of the ligament, the doctor will stitch it up.
When experiencing chronic knee pain, or if you have just sustained a knee related injury, you should contact Dr. Madsen for a diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis of an MCL tear can help speed up recovery time and prevent loss of strength and motion, so you can get back to doing what you love.