What is  a knee sprain?

A knee sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligament in the knee joint. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect two bones together in your joint. A knee sprain can occur when you injure or twist your knee awkwardly and may cause you to experience some pain, swelling and/or bruising in and around the knee initially following injury. The swelling may appear immediately or after some time. You may also have difficulty bending and straightening the knee and struggle with walking.

How can I sprain my knee?

A knee sprain can occur when you injure or twist your knee awkwardly. They are common in athletes who engage in fast-paced sports, such as football, basketball or hockey. 

Most knee sprains occur as a result of:

  • Direct impact on the knee from an outside force ( such as a fall onto the knee or a kick)
  • A sudden stop or change in direction when moving at speed 
  • Over-straightening of the knee joint 

What should I  do if I sprain my knee?

If your knee injury is serious, that you are unable to weight bear or your knee is giving away when you put weight on it,  you should seek immediate medical attention. You may wish to go to A&E  or seek advice from a physiotherapist.

If your injury seems less severe (although this can still be painful and limit your mobility and function) follow the POLICE principles to help reduce your pain and help you to recover.

  • Protection. Protect your injury from further damage. You’ll need to rest for the first 48-72 hours following the injury. Depending on the injury, consider using some form of support or a splint.
  • Optimal Loading. Get active sooner rather than later. Start active mobilisation and flexibility exercises as soon as tolerated without excessive pain. the longer you  rest the more muscle waiting will occur and your overall recovery will take longer.
  • Ice. Apply a cold compress such as a bag of ice or frozen peas, wrapped in a towel onto the painful area. Do this for around 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours for the first 48-72 hours following the injury. 
  • Compression. Compress the injured area with a simple elastic bandage to help control swelling. This bandage should be snug but not tight and also should be removed before going to sleep. 
  • Elevation. Elevate the injured area, while sitting or lying down, supported on a pillow, to help keep the swelling under control. Avoid prolonged periods with the leg not elevated.

Consider arranging medical review/referral to physiotherapy after 5–7 days, if symptoms are not improving as expected (for example if you are still experiencing difficulties in walking or weight-bearing) or if symptoms are getting worse (such as increased pain or swelling) the physiotherapist will be able to access your knee and  give you a detailed rehabilitation programme to  progress you back to your previous level of activity.

What exercises can I start doing?

Isometric quadriceps:

Sit with your leg out straight. Tighten your thigh muscles trying to straighten your leg as much as comfortable and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Active Straight leg Raise (ASLR):

Sit with your legs out in front of you. Tighten your abdominals and your thigh( quad) muscles. Breathe out to lift your leg 5 cm  off the ground and hold it  with the knee straight. Count to 5 seconds and lower slowly. Repeat 10 times.

Active knee flexion ( bending) in supine and/or sitting:

Sit on a chair with your feet on the floor or sit with your legs out straight.

Actively bend your knee as much as possible. Use a towel to help slide your knee underneath if sitting on a chair.
Repeat 10 times.

If you think you may have sprained your knee and want to book an appointment with a specialised physiotherapy or have  any questions do not hesitate to contact us.

Physiotherapy Cambridge, Physiotherapist Cambridge, Physio in Cambridge


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