A runner with an mcl injury

MCL injuries are common knee injuries that most frequently occur during sports activities, especially football, basketball, skiing, and volleyball. The majority of MCL injuries can be treated nonsurgically with the broad spectrum of therapeutic options we offer at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine where one of the areas we specialize in is joint pain. 

If you are suffering from a knee injury, contact us for an accurate diagnosis, and a combination of traditional and complementary treatments that will promote and accelerate healing.

What Is an MCL Injury?

The MCL (medial collateral ligament) is the thick band of muscle tissue located on the inner side of each knee. Four to six inches long, it runs from the femur (thigh bone) to a point on the tibia (shin bone), helping to stabilize the knee, assist in its rotation, and prevent the leg from turning too far inward. 

Symptoms of an MCL Injury

Depending on the severity of the injury, symptoms of an MCL injury may vary. If you are experiencing some or all of the following, it’s time to consult with one of our highly skilled physiatrists:

  • Popping sound at the time of injury
  • Sharp pain in your knee
  • Tenderness along the inside of your knee
  • Stiffness and swelling at the site
  • Feeling that your knee will not support you if you stand
  • Feeling your knee catch or lock when you move it

MCL injuries are graded in terms of their severity:

  • Grade 1 is a minor tear that causes pain but with which you may still be able to walk
  • Grade 2 is a moderate tear that makes it difficult to walk due to knee instability
  • Grade 3 is a severe tear necessitating the use of crutches to keep weight off the injured knee

Even if you can walk on your knee after the injury, you must receive medical attention promptly to prevent further damage.

Causes of MCL Injuries

MCL injuries may occur when you:

  • Suddenly exert force to change direction while one foot is firmly on the ground (a sports maneuver known as“cutting”)
  • Are hit on the outer side of your knee, as during a football tackle
  • Squat or lift heavy objects
  • Land awkwardly on your knee after a jump
  • Extend your knee beyond its normal limits (hyperextension) while skiing
  • Repeatedly put pressure on your knee, stretching the MCL and wearing out its elasticity

No matter how the accident occurred, you can count on our doctors to relieve your pain and get you back in the game as quickly as possible. You should be aware that MCL injuries generally take about 6 weeks to fully heal.

Diagnosis

Our doctors can usually diagnose an MCL injury by physical examination alone. By bending and putting pressure on your knee, they can determine whether your knee is loose due to the torn ligament. Nonetheless, we will administer imaging tests to make certain that their diagnosis is correct and to determine the extent of the tear. Depending on the specifics of your case, we may administer one or more of the following imaging tests:

  • X-rays to rule out broken bones
  • MRI scan to view the MCL tear and assess any other soft tissue injuries
  • Ultrasound to evaluate how severe the tear is and whether there are any other problems in the region since it is not uncommon to have more than one injury in the area

Treatment

Fortunately, the medial collateral ligament has a good blood supply. This enables your knee to respond well to the holistic treatments we provide. First and foremost, we must immobilize your knee and take steps to reduce pain and inflammation. All of the following will be helpful:

  • Tried and true home remedies, known as RICE, include [1] resting [2] applying ice at regular intervals to reduce swelling and inflammation [3] applying compression by wearing an elastic bandage around your knee to prevent your knee from turning side to side and [4] elevating the affected leg to lessen swelling by enabling fluid to drain away from the area. 
  • Pain relievers, most often NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) are also very helpful in alleviating pain and swelling in the knee.
  • Crutches greatly restrict the amount of weight you put on the affected knee 
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee and improve your knee’s range of motion. Also, exercises strengthen your thighs and core muscles.
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections to speed healing 
  • Corticosteroid/analgesic injections to relieve pain and inflammation at the site
  • PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) technology to increase blood flow to your damaged cells 
  • Acupuncture to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
  • Viscosupplementation (injections of hyaluronic acid) to lubricate the knee joint

Some of these therapies are not available at all medical practices. That’s because our physiatrists are open to using both traditional and complementary treatment methods to achieve our therapeutic goals. We are always open to safe, effective treatment protocols that will help our patients heal more quickly. 

Contact Our Experienced Physiatrists Today About Your MCL Injury

Allowing MCL injuries to remain untreated can result in greater damage. Don’t take chances with your strength and mobility. Get in touch with one of our five Long Island offices for pain relief and optimal healing. Contact us now so we can create a treatment plan customized just for you.