Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury
The lateral collateral ligament, more commonly referred to as the LCL, is most often injured during contact sports when a direct blow to the inside of the knee stretches or tears the LCL as it is overextended on the outside of the knee. Injury to this ligament is much less common than to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) located on the inside of the knee joint. This is because the lateral collateral ligament is on the outside of the knee and the opposite leg often protects the inner knee from a blow or any trauma. As a result, most LCL injuries occur when the leg is outstretched in front of the body and the inner knee is left unprotected by the other leg.
Knee Ligament Anatomy
The knee has 2 collateral (parallel) ligaments and 2 cruciate (crossing) ligaments. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) provide support to the knee by limiting the sideways motion of the joint. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) bond the upper and lower parts of the leg together and stabilize the knee by limiting the rotation and the forward and backward movement of the joint.
The Lateral Collateral Ligament is a round ligament located on the outside of the knee that lies beneath the tendon of the biceps femoris muscle.
This ligament joins the end of the fibula, which is located on the outside of the tibia (shin bone), and the bottom outside surface of the femur (thigh bone). Unlike the MCL, the LCL is not attached to either menisci in the knee and therefore, the menisci usually remain undamaged when the LCL is torn or stretched. The LCL becomes taut when the knee is extended and acts to stabilize the outside of the knee joint.
LCL Injury Symptoms
Sufferers of an LCL stretch or minor tear will experience mild tenderness with little swelling on the outside of the knee. More severe tears or ruptures result in pain directly over the ligament along the outside of the knee. Swelling is common and locking or catching of the knee may occur with movement and bending. Bruising will often appear 1-2 days after the injury occurs. A tear in the LCL ligament may also make the knee feel unstable or loose.
LCL Injury Causes
An injury to the Lateral Collateral Ligament occurs when there is a stretch, partial tear, or complete tear (rupture) to the ligament.
A blow to the inside of the knee during any number of contact sports is usually the cause of this injury. The force to the inside of the knee joint pushes the knee outward resulting in stress being placed on the ligament on the outside of the knee joint, the LCL. This stress or overextension causes the stretch or tear.
It is also possible that an injury to the LCL will occur in conjunction with injury to other ligaments in the knee depending on the amount of force the knee experiences.
Diagnosing LCL Injuries
To diagnose an LCL tear and the extent of damage that has occured, your doctor will perform a variety of assessments:
- Palpation and Observation is often the first step in diagnosing. The joint will be examined for swelling, bruising and deformities. Next the doctor pressing lightly in the ligament area to check for the degree of tenderness, swelling and warmth. Some tenderness usually indicates a mild, or grade 1, sprain and acute pain indicates a more serious injury such as a tear.
- The doctor will also assess the range of motion at the knee. You will be asked to bend and straighten your knee and then the doctor will bend it for you to check for limitations due to pain and swelling.
- A Varus Stress Test is performed with the knee flexed to 30 degrees. The ankle is turned inward (adducted) while the knee is stabilized and force is applied to the inner knee. The amount of adduction that occurs in both the healthy knee and the injured knee are compared. If the knee joint turns inward more in the injured knee than the normal knee, an LCL tear is diagnosed.
- An MRI may also be recommended to view the severity of the tear.
LCL Injury Treatments
Like most sprains or tears to a ligament, immediate treatment of the LCL injury includes the application of cold compression, rest and elevation of the knee. It is also important to allow the injured knee to rest.
Treatment differs from case to case depending on the degree of instability in the knee and the patients activity level. Treating an LCL injury with rest, cold, and Soft Tissue Repair Therapy will speed healing and improve the function of the knee so you can return to your normal activities quickly. Once the LCL has improved and activities can be resumed, you will first want to build muscle strength around the knee under the guidance of a physical therapist.
In cases of a complete rupture of the LCL, reconstruction/reattachment of the LCL will be required. Using these therapies prior to surgery will reduce further damage and improve the health of the surrounding tissue so the surgery will be less invasive. Generally, the more invasive the surgery, the more scar tissue is introduced into the area.
Using the following therapies after surgery will control pain and swelling, reduce tissue damage, speed healing and treat the scar tissue resulting from the healing process. You will have a healthier knee with a greater range of motion than if your reconstructed LCL was left untreated.
Resting the injured knee (meaning don't use it at all!) helps prevent the injury from worsening. Not resting a soft tissue injury is dangerous, as this will increase the risk of re-injury and increased swelling - eventually this will become chronic. The quickest (and safest) way to repair damaged soft tissue at home is to rest and incorporate the use of T•Shellz Knee Wraps at least twice per day .
Using cold compression immediately following an LCL tear reduces pain and swelling and reduces the tissue damage that occurs with soft tissue injuries like ligament tears. A Cold Compress or Ice Pack allows you to treat yourself in an effective and convenient way following an LCL tear, if re-injury occurs (which is common due to the instability of the knee), or following surgery if it is required.
Cold works by interrupting and slowing nerve and cell function in the damaged area. This is important because once blood vessels are damaged, they can no longer carry oxygenated blood to the damaged LCL and cells begin to break-down.
Once the inflammation and swelling of an LCL tear has been alleviated, nourishing and strengthening the ligament tissue is recommended. Using Soft Tissue Repair Therapy will speed your recovery and heal your ligament more completely preparing it for leg strengthening exercises. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out which exercises are appropriate for your situation.
Soft Tissue Repair Therapy via Use of the Knee T•Shellz Wrap®
After initial inflammation and swelling is gone you can begin to treat your LCL tear with Soft Tissue Repair Therapy, or STR Therapy. STR Therapy, via use of the T•Shellz Wrap®, helps increase blood flow in soft tissue. Blood flow transports vital nutrients to injured cells to promote your body's natural healing process. In addition, the fresh blood flow whisks away dead cells and toxins that have built up from the injury leaving the area clean and able to heal faster.
By treating yourself with Soft Tissue Repair Therapy you can increase your body's blood supply to the knee and your body's natural healing power. In addition, the fresh blood flow whisks away dead cells and toxins that have built up from the injury leaving the area clean and able to heal faster. Our Knee T•Shellz Wrap® provides effective, non-invasive, non-addictive pain relief and enhanced blood flow with no side effects.
Continue the healing process by resting your injury. Limit movements that may aggravate your strain and lead to reinjury. Tendon / Muscle related injuries can easily turn from a grade 1 strain into a grade 2 or a grade 2 into a grade 3 injury.
During your recovery, you will probably have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your knee until your pain and inflammation settle. Taking the time to care for your knee properly will have your knee back to normal faster and allow you to get back to the activities you enjoy.
The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results! Through use of controlling inflammation with cold and treating the injured area with a Knee T•Shellz Wrap®, you will notice incredible improvement in your knee.
Surgery and Recovery
If an injured ligament does not strengthen appropriately or an athlete continues to experience the knee giving way, arthroscopic surgery and ligament reconstruction may be necessary.
If LCL reconstructive surgery is necessary, remember that proper post-surgery rehabilitation is very important, perhaps even more important than the surgery itself.
Activities should set out to promote healing, increase flexibility in the knee and strengthen surrounding muscles. Your physical therapist will probably set up a "passive range of motion" program, and put you in a hinged knee brace for a month or two to prevent hyper-extension or hyper-flexion in the knee.
An important point for LCL patients to remember after surgery is that every effort must be made to increase range of motion and flexibility at the knee. Weakness in the knee can usually be eliminated by extra strengthening exercises, but increased stiffness can sometimes be permanent if not corrected by further surgery.
Not only will the Knee T•Shellz Wrap® help reduce the pain and inflammation in your knee, but will help increase the range of motion in your joint, reduce post operative scar tissue and increase flexibility in the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Ask your physical therapist about these treatments and if it's right for your reconstructed LCL! As with all medical devices, make sure your physician is aware of any treatment plan you decide to take.
Post Surgery Scar Tissue
The growth of scar tissue and adhesions are a big problem when recovering from most knee surgeries. Scar tissue/adhesions are what cause stiffening in the tendons and muscle, entrapping nerves, restricting movements, and reducing blood flow.
Unfortunately, scar tissue does not "just go away". Depending on your activity level, age, and therapy done during your rehabilitation, it may never go away. Scar tissue is a major problem as it will permanently reduce flexibility and vastly increase your risk of re-injury. When dealing with scar tissue it is always important to:
- listen well to your physician. If conservative treatments are recommended, remember to stick to your (daily) treatment plan using these therapies
- frequent use of an ice pack will help reduce the swelling very quickly. Much of the pain you feel will be from the swelling, and you will be surprised how fast the pain drops off once the swelling is down.
- T•Shellz Wrap® is a safe medical device - a powerful conservative treatment tool intended to help reduce scar tissue and increase blood flow to soft tissue (thereby accelerating the body's own healing process).
- when applied before stretching, the T•Shellz Wrap® will help flush the area with fresh blood. This will help improve your range of motion and prevent re-injury.
To prevent knee injuries it is recommended that you gradually increase the intensity of any exercise or activity when you begin and to be aware of the movement of the knee during activity.
No one is immune to an LCL Injury but Using
T•Shellz will help Reduce Your Risk of Re-Injury while
Enhancing Blood Flow in Your Knee
A knee that is supported by strong leg muscles is less prone to injury, therefore, regular exercise and maintaining good physical condition, particularly when participating in sports such as football and skiing are also excellent ways to avoid ligament injuries. If your knee is unstable or weak, wearing a brace during exercise and activity can reduce the risk of re-injury of the ligament while your knee is regaining strength.
Giving yourself a T•Shellz Treatment will help increase elasticity of soft tissue (via warming) and stimulate blood circulation in the treatment area. As such, the use of a T•Shellz Wrap® is recommended before exercise or strenuous activity as it will help prevent further strain or reinjury due to increased tissue flexibility.
It may seem hard to believe, but increased blood flow will assist your body in recovering from soft tissue injury faster while reducing the chance of degenerative conditions in the knee - all while helping reduce swelling and inflammation induced pain.
If you want to prevent further damage to your knee injury, boost your bodys healing process, reduce swelling and increase circulation for lifelong health benefits, proper use of an ice pack and a Knee T•Shellz Wrap® will provide exceptional results. Why spend time in pain, off from work, and missing out on your active lifestyle when you can be proactive about your injury and the health of your body? Talk to your doctor about incorporating a regular routine of using Soft Tissue Repair Therapy into your everyday health regimen.
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During your recovery, you will probably have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort at the location of your soft tissue injury until the pain and inflammation settle. Always consult your doctor and/or Physical Therapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they are right for you and your condition. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!
Living with pain is never easy and we encourage you to call us with any questions you have related to your knee injury. We will do our best to help.