LCL SPRAIN GUIDE

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Physiobot. Joint pain questions, meet answers.

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by Matthew Henderson, MPT

Masters of Physical Therapy

NOTE

If you feel this is potentially a cruciate ligament injury, we highly recommend consulting with a physical therapist or primary care physician as soon as possible.

YOUR GOAL
If you decide to forego the medical care route, here is our main objective for LCL sprain recovery: Reducing strain on the ligament. This will allow inflammation to settle down and the healing process to begin.

REST
With that in mind, minimize activities that exacerbate your pain (running, squats etc.) Basically, if it hurts - back off. That doesn't mean to stop moving altogether. Short, frequent walks on flat ground should be performed as tolerated to promote knee mobility and function.

ICE OR HEAT

If you notice swelling, go with ice instead of hot packs. This will help soothe the inflammation and stiffness. You can learn more about correct icing techniques on our Icing Instructional Guide.

EXERCISES
Also begin a targeted LCL exercise program. Make sure you address both strength and flexibility (see below.) Luckily you don't have to figure out which exercises to perform, our PT's have done it for you! Scroll down to view your exercises.


Try to perform your exercises a few times a day. You can slowly cycle down as the pain diminishes.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT
If it's a mild injury then the above listed strategies should lead to significant improvement within a week.

BACK IN ACTION
Once the pain diminishes, ease back into your normal daily and athletic activities. Start slow and let pain be your guide. If it hurts, back off!

A WORD OF CAUTION

To be clear, if the ligament(s) are injured beyond a certain extent, full recovery may require surgery. This is another reason to at the very least connect virtually with a licensed clinician.

KNEE BRACES

The evidence on knee braces is mixed and should not replace exercises. That said, many individuals report significant pain relief when utilizing a knee brace, particularly in the immediate period after an ACL sprain. There are a variety of knee brace types and it is important to pick the option that best fits your needs. For additional guidance, please view our Best Knee Braces of 2022 Guide.

 

NOT IMPROVING?
Connecting with a joint care professional is the logical next step. Many individuals find this a bit daunting and delay care. But it is important to keep in mind that, generally speaking, the earlier treatment is initiated the more likely you are to experience a full recovery.

 

To help promote accessible care, our 2022 Joint Care Guide: Your Best PT Options in Telehealth, In-Home and In-Clinic is now available.

-- Check with your doctor or local physical therapist prior to initiating a new exercise program --

YOUR EXERCISES

#1

Range of Motion

Following a ligament injury the knee tends to swell, restricting the knee range-of-motion. This exercise methodically and safely address this tightness and ROM restriction.

#2

Short Arc Quads

This exercise targets the end range of knee extension strength. This range often weakens following a knee injury, leading to knee buckling and pain.

#3

Quad Strength

The quadriceps are key to activities such as getting out of chairs without pain or difficulty. This exercise strengthens them without adding strain to the LCL.

#4

Clamshells

Strengthening the outer hip to recover from a knee injury may seem strange. But research shows strong outer hips reduce knee instability and are an important part of recovery.

#5

Hamstrings Recruitment

This exercise is a conservative approach to both improving hamstrings contraction AND your knee's range-of-motion.

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