LCL Injury

An LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) injury occurs when the ligament on the outside of the knee is stretched or torn. It commonly happens due to sudden twisting or impact to the knee.

LCL Injury
LCL Injury
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Your Guide to Understanding LCL Injury

What is LCL Injury?

An LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) injury refers to damage or injury to the ligament on the outer side of the knee. The LCL is a strong band of tissue that runs along the outer part of the knee joint, connecting the thighbone (femur) to the smaller bone in the lower leg (fibula). Its main function is to provide stability and prevent excessive sideways movement of the knee.

LCL injuries typically occur when there is a sudden force or impact applied to the inner side of the knee, causing the ligament to stretch beyond its normal range or tear partially or completely. This can happen during activities such as sports, where sudden changes in direction, twisting, or direct blows to the knee can put stress on the ligament.

Common symptoms of an LCL injury include pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising on the outer side of the knee. Individuals may also experience difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected leg. In more severe cases, there may be a feeling of instability or a sense that the knee is giving way.

The treatment approach for an LCL injury depends on the severity of the injury. For mild to moderate cases, nonsurgical management options are often recommended. This may include rest, applying ice packs to reduce swelling, using compression bandages or braces to provide support and stability, and undergoing physical therapy exercises to promote healing and strengthen the surrounding muscles. Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs may also be prescribed to manage pain and inflammation.

In more severe cases, where the ligament is extensively torn or other structures in the knee are affected, surgery may be necessary. Surgical options for LCL injuries may involve repairing the torn ligament or reconstructing it using grafts from other parts of the body.

How can Physiotherapy help treat LCL Injury?

Physiotherapy services are instrumental in alleviating LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) injuries and aiding in the recovery process. Physiotherapists employ various techniques to address pain, swelling, and instability associated with LCL injuries. They may begin by implementing modalities such as ice and electrical stimulation to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Through tailored exercise programs, physiotherapists help strengthen the surrounding muscles, improve stability, and restore range of motion in the knee joint. Additionally, manual therapy techniques are used to enhance joint mobility and alignment. By providing targeted treatment plans, physiotherapy plays a vital role in reducing pain, restoring function, and facilitating the healing process for individuals with LCL injuries.

What causes LCL Injury?

An LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) injury is typically caused by a sudden force or impact to the inner side of the knee joint. This can happen during activities that involve sudden changes in direction, twisting motions, or direct blows to the knee. Common causes of an LCL injury include:

  • Sports Injuries: Participating in sports that involve quick changes in direction or movements that put stress on the knee, such as soccer, basketball, football, or skiing, can increase the risk of an LCL injury. Collisions or falls during these activities can result in damage to the ligament.
  • Accidents and Trauma: Traumatic events, such as car accidents or falls, can cause significant force to be applied to the knee joint, resulting in an LCL injury. The impact or sudden twisting can stretch or tear the ligament.
  • Overextension: In some cases, overextending the knee joint beyond its normal range of motion can lead to an LCL injury. This can occur when landing awkwardly from a jump or forcefully straightening the knee beyond its limits.

What treatments might help LCL Injury?

The treatment for LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) injury aims to improve the condition and promote healing. Here are some common approaches that can help:

  • Rest and Protection: Resting the injured knee is essential for the healing process. Using crutches or a brace can provide support and prevent further strain on the ligament.
  • Ice Therapy: Applying ice packs to the affected area can help reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. It is typically recommended to apply ice for about 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may be prescribed to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the knee. However, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery from an LCL injury. A physical therapist can provide exercises and techniques to strengthen the surrounding muscles, improve range of motion, and enhance joint stability.
  • Rehabilitation Exercises: Specific exercises may be recommended to target the LCL and surrounding structures. These exercises can help restore function, enhance flexibility, and promote the healing process.
  • Bracing and Support: Depending on the severity of the injury, a knee brace or supportive device may be utilized to provide stability and protect the LCL during the healing process.

Signs of LCL Injury:

Signs of an LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) injury can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Pain: You may experience pain along the outer side of your knee. The intensity of the pain can range from mild discomfort to severe, sharp pain.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the knee joint is a common sign of an LCL injury. The area may appear puffy or feel tender to the touch.
  • Instability: An injured LCL can cause a feeling of instability in the knee. You may notice that your knee feels wobbly or gives way when you put weight on it or move it in certain directions.
  • Stiffness: The knee joint may feel stiff and difficult to move fully. This can make activities such as walking or bending the knee uncomfortable.
  • Bruising: In some cases, bruising may develop around the site of the injury. The bruise can be a result of blood leaking from damaged blood vessels.
  • Limited Range of Motion: You may find it challenging to fully straighten or bend your knee due to the injury. There may be a decreased range of motion compared to your uninjured knee.

Symptoms of LCL Injury:

Symptoms of an LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) injury can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Here are some common symptoms to be aware of:

  • Pain: You may experience pain on the outer side of your knee. The pain can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the injury.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the knee joint is a typical symptom of an LCL injury. The area may appear swollen or feel tender to the touch.
  • Instability: An injured LCL can cause a sense of instability in the knee. You might feel like your knee is giving way or feels wobbly when you put weight on it or move it.
  • Difficulty Walking: Walking may become challenging due to pain and instability caused by the LCL injury. You may have a limp or struggle to bear weight on the affected leg.
  • Stiffness: The knee joint may feel stiff, making it difficult to fully bend or straighten the knee. This stiffness can limit your range of motion.
  • Bruising: In some cases, bruising may develop around the site of the injury. The bruise may appear as discoloration due to bleeding under the skin.
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When is the right time to see a Physiotherapist for LCL Injury?

The right time to see a physiotherapist for an LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) injury is typically as soon as possible after the injury occurs or when you start experiencing symptoms. It is important to seek professional guidance to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

If you have sustained an LCL injury or are experiencing symptoms such as pain, swelling, instability in the knee, or difficulty with movement, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. They can assess your condition, perform any necessary tests or examinations, and provide a personalized treatment plan based on the severity of your injury.

Early intervention by a chiropractor, physiotherapist, or naturopath can help manage pain, reduce swelling, and promote healing. These professionals can provide techniques, exercises, and therapies aimed at improving joint stability, restoring function, and preventing further damage to the LCL. They can also guide you on proper self-care, recommend assistive devices if needed, and address any underlying factors that may contribute to your injury.

Meet our Lead Registered Physiotherapist

Brittany Pereira

Brittany Pereira

Registered Physiotherapist

Registered Physiotherapist with a degree from the University of Toronto

Brittany enjoys working with patients across age groups and backgrounds to help them move better, get stronger, understand their bodies and ultimately, feel more confident. She combines her knowledge and clinical experience to best serve her patients.

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