Knee sprain, strain and tear

Man with hurt knee

​​​​​​​​​Sprain and strain of the knee are fairly common injuries. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, these injuries cause ongoing pain and irritation, which can limit your activities. 

A knee sprain occurs when a ligament—the tough, fibrous tissue that connects bones together in your joints—that tears or is stretched too far. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. Causes include falling, twisting the joint or blunt force. 

A knee strain occurs when a tendon—a fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone—is injured or damaged. Strains are caused by twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon. They may develop without warning or happen over time.

A knee tear can be a torn meniscus or a torn ligament, both of which help stabilize the knee joint. The tear may be partial or complete.  

Knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) 

The knee is one of the strongest joints in the body. However, the ligaments are prone to injury. The most common type of sprain or tear of the knee is in the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. This type of injury occurs when the ACL is stretched too far or tears. 

A ligament tear may be partial or it can be complete. A torn or sprained ACL can happen when you make a sudden, twisting movement that causes your feet to stay planted one way but your knees to turn a different way. It may also be caused by a direct hit to the knee or overextension of the knee joint. Basketball, football, soccer and skiing are sports commonly linked to ACL sprains and tears.

Knee sprain, strain and tear symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a knee sprain, strain or tear may include:

  • A popping sound at the time of injury

  • Discomfort when walking

  • Inability to use your knee in a normal manner

  • Pain, especially when attempting to bear weight on the affected area

  • Swelling and irritation of the knee

Knee sprain, strain and tear diagnosis

Diagnosis of sprains, strain and tears of the knee typically begins with a thorough examination and medical history. It may also include:

  • Arthroscopy—a procedure that uses a small tube containing a tiny video camera and light inserted into your knee to allow your doctor to view the damaged area internally.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)—uses a large magnet, radio frequencies and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs and structures of the knee.

  • X-ray—uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams that make images of your knee bones and their surrounding soft tissues.

Knee sprain, strain and tear treatment

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, we have the years of experience, training and the advanced technology it takes to treat sprains, strains and tears of your knees. Whether it’s a mild strain or a full-blown torn ACL, our nationally recognized physicians put together an individualized care plan that gets you on the road to good health and wellbeing as quickly as possible.

In minor cases, the RICE method may be used: 

  • Rest the joint

  • Ice the affected area

  • Compress the area with an elastic bandage

  • Elevate the joint

If additional treatment is needed, it may include:

  • A brace or cast to immobilize the affected area

  • Arthroscopy to treat sprains, strains and tears, in addition to its diagnostic uses

  • Crutches or a wheelchair to aid in movement

  • Limits or restrictions on activity

  • Medication for pain control

  • Physical therapy - to stretch and strengthen the area surrounding the injury and improve the quality of movement 

  • Surgery to repair the injury or damage

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, we provide exceptional care for knee sprains, strains and tears. 

Find a knee specialist near you.