It happened. You’re jogging along the Katy Trail or walking up the steps at work and ouch- you feel a twinge of pain on the outside edge of your kneecap. The small divot on the outside is now tender to the touch. Oh no, did you tear something in your knee? Our brains can easily go to the worst possible scenario when we experience pain. How do you know if your knee pain is a small ‘tweak’ or if you may have torn a ligament? Thankfully, the answers are often obvious.
There are a handful of crucial components in your knee region. There are four main ligaments - one on either side of your leg (collateral ligaments) and two crisscrossed inside your knee:
- The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is on the outside of your leg.
- The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is on the inside of your leg.
- The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is towards the front of the inside of your knee.
- The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located towards the back of the inside of your knee.
Your knee also has a series of cartilage, including your medial and lateral meniscus cartilages, that act as shock absorbers, as it were, during movement. ACL tears are arguably the most common knee injury for athletes. Click to download our free resource on how to prevent ACL tears.
Pain in your knee region may not necessarily be a sign of serious injury. Arthritis, lack of exercise, overuse, and any number of other cause and conditions may be the source of your knee pain. However, there are a few basic tests to determine whether your knee pain may be due to a ligament or cartilage tear:
- Is your knee swollen? A serious knee injury can result in significant swelling within a matter of hours.
- Did you hear a loud pop? This isn’t the same as when one of your knuckles cracks or your shoulder pops. You would remember this sound.
- Do you have difficulty moving your leg? Extending or bending your knee should come without much noticeable resistance or pain. If you have
- Are you able to put weight on your knee? Your knee pain still may not be due to a knee injury, but ask for assistance if you’re having any difficulty placing any weight on your knee.
Knee ligament tears are actually referred to as sprains. Minor sprains of knee ligaments may not be as obvious, which is why a very localized pain is worth discussing with an orthopedic surgeon. It may not require surgery, but you may need some treatment, such as physical therapy, to rehabilitate your knee to full strength.
If you’re experiencing lasting knee pain to any extent, you need to schedule an appointment with Orthopedic Associates.