MCL Tears Treatments Options
Ligament injuries can either stretch the ligament or tear the ligament. Ligament sprains and tears are the most common type of knee injury. The MCL and the ACL are the two most commonly injured knee ligaments. MCL tears are two to three times more common than ACL tears.
Types of MCL injuries
MCL injuries are graded on a scale from 1 (least severe) to 3 (most severe):
- Grade 1 – Some tenderness and minor pain
- Grade 2 – Noticeable looseness in the knee when moved by hand; major pain and tenderness at the inside of the knee; swelling, in some cases.
- Grade 3 – Considerable pain and tenderness at the inside of the knee; some swelling and marked joint instability. The knee opens up about 1 centimeter (slightly less than half an inch) during a functional assessment. A grade 3 MCL tear often occurs along with a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.
Treatment for an MCL injury is clearly dependent on the severity of the MCL injury. Most MCL injuries are treated with physical therapy, rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories. This ligament is one of the structures in the body that heals the best. However, when injuries are more serious, involve other ligaments or when they fail to heal, surgery can be indicated.
Non Surgical Treatment of MCL tears
Immediate treatment may be indicated for all MCL injuries. Immediate treatment may also be indicated prior to your doctor being able to provide a complete and accurate diagnosis. If the injury is so tender and swollen, Dr. Jorge Chahla’s first objective is to reduce and control inflammation. Immediate treatment includes:
- applying ice to reduce swelling
- elevating your knee to reduce swelling
- placing the knee in a splint to limit movement
- taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease pain and swelling
- compressing your knee using an elastic bandage or brace
- using crutches to keep weight off of your injured knee
- and, simply resting
Immediate treatment is usually recommended for 72 hours. Fortunately, the medial collateral ligament has a good blood supply which aids in your body’s ability to heal itself. For minor Grade 1 and 2 injuries, immediate treatment may be sufficient to set you on the path to recovery.
Once pain and swelling have gone down, a physical therapy rehabilitation program may be indicated.
As you recover from your injury, the goal is to regain strength in your knee and prevent further injury. Rehabilitation may include:
- physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve your knee’s range of motion
- wearing a protective knee brace during physical activity
- limiting activities that can cause further injury, such as contact sports
Midwest Orthopedics at Rush has one of the nation’s premier physical therapy and rehabilitation programs. It may take a week to eight weeks to completely recover from a Grade 1 or 2 MCL injury.
MCL Reconstructive Surgery
A torn medial collateral ligament is rarely treated with surgery. However, MCL reconstructive surgery is indicated when the ligament is torn in such a way that it can’t repair itself or when associated with other ligament injuries.
Before your surgery, Dr. Chahla may use arthroscopy to thoroughly examine the extent of your injury and to look for associated injuries inside your knee. Arthroscopy (also called arthroscopic surgery) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure, in which an examination and sometimes treatment of injury is performed using a small, thin camera through a tiny incision.
After the arthroscopic exam, your surgeon will make an incision along the inner aspect of your knee. If your ligament is torn where it attaches to either your shinbone or your thighbone, your surgeon can use one of these to reattach it:
- large stitches
- bone staples
- a metal screw
- a device called a suture anchor
Schedule a consultation
If you’re suffering from an MCL injury, schedule a consultation with board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jorge Chahla in Chicago, IL. Dr. Chahla is part of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush an internationally renowned orthopedic group. Dr. Chahla is renowned in his own right as one the nation’s leading sports medicine orthopedic surgeons. During your consultation, Dr. Chahla can properly diagnose and discuss the appropriate treatment options for you.
At a Glance
Dr. Jorge Chahla
- Triple fellowship-trained sports medicine surgeon
- Performs over 500 surgeries per year
- Assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Rush University
- Learn more