Not everyone is a medical expert.

Meaning it can be baffling when it comes to understanding the knee joint and getting to grips with undiagnosed pain inside of the knee.

What do you do if you can’t visibly see signs of injury?

This is why, in this post, I’ll share all I know about the symptoms of an ACL tear, what to expect, and how to get diagnosed and treated so there’s the best chance of a full recovery.

​Where does your knee hurt with a torn ACL?

As someone who’s torn both my ACLs in the past, I know what you need to know!

And considering that an ACL ligament tear is one of the most common knee injuries out there, this post will surely be helpful to many people.

Many studies show that ACL injuries are the most common of all knee injuries, affecting many people, particularly football players, athletes, and other sportsmen and women.

Therefore, learning the symptoms of knee pain when it’s an ACL injury is worthwhile, so you know what to look for if you’re ever in need.

Read more in this post to discover where your knee hurts from anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

Common symptoms

To understand where the pain is in your knee, you first need to understand basic knee anatomy.

Now, the knee is simple in theory—if you have an excellent comprehension of 3D anatomy, that is!

In short (and to make things easier), what creates the knee, is actually the meeting point of the shin bone and the thigh bone (medically termed the femur bone and the tibia bone)

So too, there are knee ligaments, muscles, tendons, cartilage, and soft tissues.

And the inner knee is where everything happens.


Center of the knee

You’ve got four major ligaments that keep the knee stable and help ‘hold’ the knee together.

These main ligaments are:

  • The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament)
  • The PCL (posterior cruciate ligament)
  • The MCL (medial collateral ligament)
  • The LCL (lateral collateral ligament)

You’ve also got several tendons that attach muscles to the bone around the knee joint.

These are:

  • The quadriceps tendon
  • The patellar tendon
  • The hamstring tendon
  • The iliotibial band

Soft tissues such as skin, subcutaneous fat, articular cartilage, and a touch of synovial fluid complete the knee as we understand it.

Popping sound

The characteristic symptoms of an ACL injury are always down to the mechanism of injury first and foremost.

An ACL injury, whether a partial or complete tear, is almost always caused by sudden stops or a sudden, drastic change in direction that extends the knee past its normal range of motion.

Many people hear what they call a ‘popping sound,’ which is accompanied by sharp pain inside the knee.

Standing on the injured knee would be challenging, and immediate medical attention would be necessary.

Accurate diagnosis

Diagnosing an ACL injury is imperative for successful treatment and recovery.

Imaging tests, such as MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scans, or ultrasounds, are often needed to assess the injured knee and rule out other injuries.

In the case of a partial tear, it may be sufficient to rest the lower leg with a knee brace for added support.

For a fully torn ligament, regardless of whether it’s an ACL tear, the collateral ligament, or the PCL ligament, any complete tear would likely require surgery (particularly to the cruciate ligaments).

The excellent news is that ACL surgery is well-known in the medical field and is usually highly successful.


Treatment options

The routine nonsurgical treatments include the following:

-Physical therapy


-Lifestyle changes

A surgical repair treatment plan tends to differ depending on who does the surgery.

ACL reconstruction surgery is frequently recommended in cases of complete ACL tears.

This is where a piece of ligament is taken from elsewhere in the body to ‘reconstruct’ the ACL in the knee.

It happens under a general anesthetic, and the healing process involves rest, elevation, and physical therapy.

The thing to know is that even though an ACL injury is relatively common, every knee injury is different. Therefore, the best thing to do is to keep an open mind and ask questions of the health care providers treating you at the time.

​Recovery time

Be patient, first and foremost! Injured ligaments require longer than bones to heal in many cases.

Most experts say it takes between 6 and 12 months or longer to fully recover from a torn ACL ligament fully.

Of course, the recovery time depends on your body and the severity of the injury too.

Try to help yourself recover by following the guidance of your orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist, and healthcare provider. It’ll pay off in the long run!

I hope you found this post valuable and informative.

​If you’d like to read more of my posts, check them out here.

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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