If you're playing sports, or walking and slide on gravel, and you twist your knee, you might develop a sprain or tear in a ligament. A mild sprain might not show symptoms right away, but a partial or complete tear can be painful and cause swelling and bruising. You might even hear a popping sound when the tear happens and wonder if you broke a bone in your knee. Here's a look at how an orthopedic specialist might treat your knee injury.
A Mild Sprain
You might be able to treat a mild sprain at home by elevating your knee and resting. Applying ice to your knee can help with pain and swelling. If you play sports frequently or competitively, you may still want to have your knee checked for damage so you can heal properly.
Once your knee has healed, it needs to be stable so it can support your weight as you jump and twist or you might have further knee injury. Your doctor might recommend physical therapy to stretch and strengthen your knee so you can return to your usual activities once the sprain has healed.
A Partial Tear
A torn knee ligament is a common sports injury, and the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is often the ligament that's injured. However, there are four major ligaments in your knee, and any one or more of them could be injured.
A partial tear may or may not need surgery. Your orthopedic specialist may order imaging tests on your knee to determine the extent of the damage and to determine the right treatment.
If surgery isn't needed, you might need to wear a knee brace to stabilize your knee and keep your knee elevated when you're resting. Anti-inflammatory medications and ice should help with the pain. Your ligament can heal on its own with time, but it may take a few months. Physical therapy will probably be an important part of your recovery.
A Complete Ligament Tear
A complete tear is the most serious situation. Your orthopedic doctor may recommend surgery that repairs your ligament with a graft. The graft used may come from a donor, or it may be taken from a tendon elsewhere in your body during the procedure.
This is usually a minimally invasive surgery on an outpatient basis. If you have damage to the cartilage or other parts of your knee as well, the doctor might make repairs to those during the same surgery.
Your orthopedic specialist takes several things into consideration when deciding if surgery is right for you. Your age and level of activity are important factors, and your doctor also considers how stable your knee is and expected to be once you heal. If you play sports, you'll need a stable knee that allows you to resume playing, so surgery might be the right choice. Contact a medical professional in your area to learn more about orthopedic services.