Knee Sprains vs. Tears: Comparing Treatments & Prevention

Medically Reviewed By | Johannah Gregg, DNP FNP-C

The knee is the largest joint in the human body and has an incredibly intricate anatomical structure. It plays a crucial role in many athletic movements and constantly carries a lot of physical stress. 

It is also one of the most injury-prone areas of the body and is the most commonly damaged joint in athletic-related injuries among adolescents in the United States. So what is the difference between the two most knee common injuries?

What Is a Knee Sprain?

The knee has four main components – bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. Ligaments are pieces of tissue that hold together all of the bones that surround the joint and are what come into play when a sprain happens. 

Sprains happen when some of the fibers that make up a ligament overstretch. Straining all of these fibers results in a severe sprain.

Treatments 

Once you have a confirmed knee sprain, the recipe for recovery is immobilization, ice, elevation, and blood flow. Resting your knee and preventing movement for a little while is best. It’s important to rest until the inflammation fully subsides, or you might risk worsening your injury. 

While resting your leg, staying on top of an icing schedule is essential to help reduce inflammation. Generally, it’s advised to ice your knee for 15 to 20 minutes, four to eight times a day, for at least 48 hours after the injury. While you are icing your knee, elevate it to help reduce swelling and pain. 

Prevention

If you want to push your body to the limits and promote muscle recovery without worrying about spraining your knee, be sure to use the men’s or women’s performance pants. These pants have semiconductor elements that will provide comfort, durability, and support during activity. 

What Is a Knee Tear?

There are four ligaments in the knee that are vulnerable to tearing: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), and the medial collateral ligament (MCL)

If you tear a knee ligament, you will most likely hear a loud popping sound during the movement of injury, notice swelling for up to 24 hours after the injury, have a feeling of looseness in your knee, and experience instability, resulting in being unable to put any weight on your leg. 

Treatment 

To confirm a torn ligament, you should see a doctor for discussion regarding imaging needed to evaluate further. After confirmation, your doctor can tell you the grade of your tear (how severe the tear is) and discuss treatment options with you. If your tear is a higher grade, you might need reconstructive surgery. 

After surgery or the decision to bypass surgery, you will need to attend to your knee and work on rebuilding strength. To do so, you will have to rest, stick to recovery exercises, and promote blood flow to the area. 

During the treatment process of a ligament tear, rely on the Incrediwear Knee Sleeve to support your recovery and soothe symptoms. Rather than working like a compression garment, our knee sleeve uses semiconductor elements that react to your body temperature to support healthy blood flow and soothe pain and discomfort.

Prevention

The most common way to tear a ligament in your knee is to partake in activities that require you to pivot, turn, or twist your leg quickly, such as soccer and basketball. Therefore, if you are concerned about preventing a tear in your knee, it’s best to avoid these sports or come prepared with protective gear. 

Dr. Gregg notes that strengthening the hamstrings and quadrcieps can be incredibly helpful for prevention, too.

If you want to stay active, be sure to exercise on level surfaces, add variety to your exercise routine, use proper body mechanics and warm up before exercising. Additionally, you can use our Knee Sleeve to protect yourself ,when exercising or playing sports after a tear in your ligament. 

Conclusion

A sprain involves damage to the fibers in the ligaments. A tear involves damage to the ligaments in the knee, including the ACL, PCL, LCL, or MCL. 

Whether a sprain or a tear, treatment is available. Reducing movement, using ice, and elevation can speed the healing process. Incrediwear sleeves can also support your healing throughout the process through semiconductor elements to support healthy blood flow and soothe discomfort.

Sources:

Epidemiology of 6.6 million knee injuries presenting to United States emergency departments from 1999 through 2008 | PubMed

Sprain: First aid | Mayo Clinic

Knee Ligaments: Anatomy, ACL, MCL, PCL, LCL, Torn Ligament | Cleveland Clinic

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