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Perhaps you think a sprain isn’t that bad a thing? It’s nothing compared to a broken bone surely?

Years ago I remember my parents talked about the possibility of ankle sprains if our ankle rolled off the curb while playing with friends, or knee sprains if we ran too fast down a hill and stopped suddenly.

Well, our parents were right! I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but a knee sprain can be extremely serious depending on the severity of the injury.

This is why it’s good to be prepared. A sprained knee is no joke and needs time, medical attention, and support to make a full recovery.

This guide explains what there is to know about common knee injuries and knee sprain recovery time. 

It includes what to expect if you have a sprain yourself and common treatment options to consider. 

Always see a doctor if you are worried about a knee injury. Medical attention is required and will help you recover as quickly and effectively as possible. 

Knee pain

You may suspect a sprain injury if you’ve done some heavy exercise or hard-impact activities. 

Or if you’ve unfortunately twisted your knee in a way that it shouldn’t have gone whilst going about your normal activities. 

If you’re worried about a potential knee sprain do see a medical doctor who will assess your knee and make sure you’re in the best hands to recover. 

What is a knee sprain?

A sprain of the knee refers to any damage to the knee joint through overstretching or overusing the knee. 

It’s the knee ligaments that are affected when you hear the word ‘sprain injury.’

A sprain injury results in partial damage to a portion of one ligament causing mild bruising while a complete tear would result in a torn ligament of the knee joint, and the recovery process/time reflects this.

The severity of the sprain determines the treatment needed and the length of the recovery time.

Common symptoms of knee sprain include (but are not limited to):

  • – Severe pain in the knee
  • – Sharp pain when standing or walking
  • – Swelling and redness of the knee
  • – Aching of the knee (maybe on and off)

Inside your knee

There are 4 major ligaments that make up the knee joint comprised of two groups; the collateral ligaments and the cruciate ligaments.

These are:

  • The anterior cruciate ligament
  • The posterior cruciate ligament
  • The lateral collateral ligament
  • The medial collateral ligament

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most commonly injured ligament from knee sprains. 

An injured knee frequently occurs when the knee stays planted but the leg twists around – causing a ‘wrenching action’ to the knee joint, resulting in over-stretched and in some cases, torn ligaments.

However, ligaments are not the only part of the knee that can be damaged during a sprain injury. 

There are muscles and tendons in the knee which also may suffer. Knee instability and restricted movement can result from a sprain injury, which is why medical attention is needed.

The thing to be most aware of is a knee sprain doesn’t always show on the outside of the knee. 

Unless there are signs of infection (redness and heat at the site of injury) or an injured area that you can visibly see, such as a cut or graze, the sprain would be felt in terms of pain more than anything else. 

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Severe sprains

A sprain of the knee can be very serious. 

If the knee ligaments are involved and there’s concern about a severe tear, the knee may even require surgical intervention. 

Being the largest joint in the body, the knee is prone to common injury and when damage happens, it greatly impacts the individual’s life.

The good news is we live in modern times where the help of a physical therapist works wonders. 

So too is there an array of healthcare providers and care options out there, which gives comfort in the knowledge that a knee injury can heal given time and proper attention.

Many knee problems these days can even be resolved using a good rehabilitation program or simply proper rest and recovery at home under your doctor’s guidance.

Knee Sprain Recovery Time

Any injury to the knee joint requires individual assessment and a tailored recovery plan – and this is no different when treating a sprain injury. 

Expected recovery times vary and the level and degree of recovery differ too, although typically sprains heal between 1-2 months on average.

Some people recover fully from a knee sprain within weeks and don’t notice significant changes to their mobility. 

They return to a normal range of motion quickly and easily and carry on with physical activity and daily life with no issues.

Others may suffer a severe impact on day-to-day life if the knee sprain involves a partial ligament tear or the injured leg requires surgery. 

These injuries require longer to heal and rest is essential.

There is no way to know how long the recovery process from a knee sprain will be. But there are ways to help the knee heal and support the individual during the healing process (see treatment options).

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Treatment options

It’s essential you are seen by your healthcare provider if you suspect a knee sprain or any knee injury. 

An ice pack on the knee while elevating the joint above the level of the heart, can be soothing in the initial stage of a sprain injury to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Your knee will be assessed by a clinician, perhaps with medical imaging to check for meniscus tears and to assess the inside of the knee.

One of the most important components of recovering from a knee sprain will be through personalized physical therapy. Make sure to diligently perform the exercises necessary to get you back to your previous level of activity and incorporate exercises that will help prevent these injuries in the future.

Your job may need to adapt somewhat, particularly if you’re active and on your feet a lot. 

So too will your lifestyle need to change to allow the knee sprain to heal.

There are various tools available to help ease the discomfort and limitations of a knee sprain during the recovery process. 

These include a knee brace or elastic bandage to support the leg. Strenuous exercises should certainly be avoided and proper rest is essential.

And don’t forget to discuss over-the-counter pain relievers with your doctor to minimize the discomfort of a knee sprain injury.

FAQs

What is the fastest way to heal a sprained knee?

The fastest way to heal from a sprained knee is to ensure you are getting ample rest. It is also important to reduce swelling as much as possible which can be done through icing and compression.

Is it OK to walk with a sprained knee?

Walking when you have a sprained knee is OK. But you need to be extra careful that you don’t cause further damage to the knee joint. Being mindful of your surroundings, avoiding rigorous or dangerous activities, and wearing a knee brace to help provide stability to the joint are recommended.

How long should you stay off of a sprained knee?

A common misconception after obtaining a knee sprain is that you need to be completely immobile. This many times is not correct, and safe, controlled movement is warranted to keep you active and provide adequate blood flow to the injured joint. Talk with your doctor about your specific condition and how you can ensure you are maintaining the appropriate activity level for your specific situation.

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to reach out if you have any further questions on the matter.

About the Author

Hi there! I’m Dr. Keagen Hadley, OTD, OTR/L. Straight out of the University of Mary, I’m all about blending my know-how in knee health, well-being, and medical technology. As a licensed occupational therapy doc, I’m here to translate complex concepts into clear, actionable insights – whether it’s knee care or groundbreaking healthcare tech.

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