ACL isn’t only a music festival. You’ve probably heard of them before from someone telling you “I tore my ACL”. Both your ACL and MCL are ligaments located in your knee that connect your thigh bone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia), and both MCL and ACL injuries are serious and can require ACL surgery to correct. These ligaments keep your tibia in place and protect certain parts from tearing such as the menisci. Menisci work as a cushion for your joints to help keep them protected.
Where is the ACL / MCL / PCL Located?
Your Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a Cruciate Ligament, one of two crossing ligaments located in the center of the knee. The ACL crosses in the front of the knee and your Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) crosses along the back of the knee joint.
Your Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) is located on the inner side of your knee. It is a Collateral Ligament that provides stability to the knee.
The knee is perhaps the most used major joint in the body, and as such, is also one of the most likely to be injured. Most often, knee injuries are caused by sprains and strains.
A sprain is the result of of a violent twist or torsion of ligaments, but not dislocation. Strains are tears in the fibers of ligaments. These tears can vary in degree and magnitude.
What is a Ligament Tear?
As the tissues in your ligaments expand and retract to keep your joints stable, the fibers can be come torn by twisting or unnatural movements.
A ligament is made up of fibrous tissues that hold bones or joints together. A tear in one of these ligaments occurs when the fibers of your ligament are partially or entirely torn away from each other.
Imagine a rope. If you cut a small slit into the rope, all of the fibers become loose, which makes the rope less stable. This is similar to a tear in your ligaments. Thankfully, ligament tears are not permanent, and can heal with the proper treatments and recovery methods.
Symptoms of an ACL tear
Symptoms can be immediate. Usually, a ligament tear will happen when the knee is twisted during high intensity sports such as football, soccer, or basketball. Also, ligament tears can occur gradually over time.
Some signs of an ACL tear include:
- Hearing a popping sound when your leg is planted and you shift the knee
- Pain in the knee
- Swelling of the knee
- Feeling unstable when using the knee
- Difficulty walking
Symptoms of an MCL tear
An MCL injury will cause pain and discomfort on the inner side of the knee joint where the MCL is located. MCL injuries are very similar to those of an ACL injury.
Symptoms of a PCL tear
PCL injuries are not as common as the other ligament injuries. When they occur, it is usually in tandem with a bone, cartilage, or another ligament injury. PCL injuries will probably not occur with the popping sound that is commonly associated with ACL injuries. However, they do share the other symptoms.
Types of Sprains
An injury to your ligaments is often referred to as a sprain. There are three grades of sprain that can occur.
- Grade 1 Sprain
The ligament is stretched but not torn or torn very slightly. There may be some tenderness and swelling, but the knee isn’t unstable.
- Grade 2 Sprain
The ligament is partially torn so there may be some tenderness and a moderate amount of swelling. The knee will also be unstable.
- Grade 3 Sprain
The ligament is completely torn so that it does not connect to itself anymore. There is a good amount of tenderness and possible swelling.
If there is sudden swelling, there could be serious bleeding in the knee. The knee may buckle under weight because of instability.
Tips for knee injury recovery
If you suspect you have a tear or sprain, begin first aid right away. For simple sprains it is recommended to use the RICE method:
- Rest – Rest your knee and avoid physical activities that cause your knee pain.
- Ice – Apply ice to the knee for 10 – 20 minute periods 3 or more times a day.
- Compression – Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage making sure not to wrap too tightly.
- Elevation – Elevate the knee when lying down. Try to keep it level or above your heart.
For severe injuries, surgery may be needed. Check with your doctor about what the best treatment for you should be. If you are experiencing sharp pain, or pain that doesn’t dissipate days after your injury, call Absolute Life Wellness Center to schedule a chiropractic appointment.