A knee sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments that support the knee. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other.
Knee sprains may be caused by:
Factors that may increase your chance of developing a knee sprain include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. The knee will be checked to see how stable the joint is and how severe the pain is.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
A minimally invasive procedure may be done to look inside of your knee. This can be done with arthroscopy.
Knee sprains are graded according to their severity. The injury is considered more severe if more ligaments are involved.
Your doctor may advise that you follow the RICE method:
Your doctor may advise over-the-counter pain medication or topical pain medications in the form of creams or patches that are applied to the skin.
If advised by your doctor, wear a brace. The brace will keep your knee from moving. Crutches may also be used with the brace. You may also need to wear a brace when you return to sports. It may need to be custom made to support your knee rather than keep it from moving. Braces are not advised for children.
If you have a severe sprain, you may need to wear a short leg cast for 2-3 weeks.
Your doctor may advise exercises to restore flexibility, range of motion, and strength. You may be referred to a physical therapist.
Surgery may be needed if a ligament is torn completely.
To reduce your risk of spraining a knee:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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Sprains and strains: what's the difference? American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00111. Updated October 2007. Accessed June 18, 2015.
What are sprains and strains? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases—National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Sprains_Strains/sprains_and_strains_ff.pdf. Published November 2014. Accessed June 18, 2015.
1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.