Why Chiropractic Is an Important Player in Healing Your Sprained Knee
By Dr. Molly Casey
Knee injuries are very common in certain sports, and are also very common in winter. Whether it is a wet entryway because of ice or the outdoor elements having been tracked inside, seen or unseen, it is a regular occurrence to hear patients say they hurt their knee because of a slip and fall. One injury that is frequently seen with slips and falls is a medial collateral ligament sprain; aside from being painful and limiting your activity, this injury can be frustrating because it can linger. A better understanding offers a better opportunity to heal fully and most efficiently.
Anatomy and Function
The knee joint is made up of four bones — the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), the fibula (outside smaller bone on the lower leg), and the patella (knee cap). Ligaments attach bone to bone and stabilize joints to prevent excess motion in unwanted directions.
The knee joint has four ligaments, a posterior and anterior cruciate ligament (PCL/ACL), and a lateral and medial collateral ligament (LCL/MCL). The cruciate ligaments stabilize the knee and prevent excessive movement in a posterior/anterior (backward/forward) motion. The collateral ligaments stabilize the knee and prevent excessive medial/lateral (side to side) motion. The MCL specifically stops the knee from bending inward.
Mechanism of Injury
Injury to the MCL is going to be any action or trauma that causes the knee to bend inward farther than what the MCL is intended to allow. Bending, twisting, or a quick change of direction can all cause injury to the MCL. This is frequently why people associate most MCL injuries with sports like football, basketball, or anything in which the leg is planted and a quick change of direction occurs. That is exactly what occurs when you slip on ice or a puddle of water. The leg is planted, it loses traction, and the result is a quick change of position and down you go.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
A sprain of the MCL can produce pain, swelling, and tenderness on the inside of the knee. These symptoms can begin immediately or within a few hours after the injury. The knee’s range of motion may become more limited as time goes on while bruising may or may not be present. Although not every knee injury requires diagnostic testing, if tests are required, an MRI is the gold standard for assessing if there is an MCL sprain and is necessary for the sprain to be properly graded. MCL sprains are classified as F Grade 1 (mild), Grade 2 (moderate), and Grade 3 (severe).
The exact protocol and time for healing an MCL sprain is correlated to the classification/grade of the sprain. Here are some helpful components to think about if you find yourself with an MCL sprain because of the winter weather.
Rest and ice – It’s not rocket science yet it’s not always easy. Slowing down is an essential part of the healing process and this includes MCL sprain injuries. Stop what you are/were doing, withdraw from activity (even if for just a few minutes) for your body to get its bearings back after the fall. If you can, sit or lie down to take weight off the joint and apply some ice. The ice is an analgesic and can help control the inflammation process that may or may not set in.
Chiropractic adjustment – Nerves exiting the low back in the lumbar region L3, L4 innervate the knee joint and MCL ligament. Healing as fully and efficiently as possible requires optimal communication between the brain and the MCL and the MCL and the brain. Thus, seeing your chiropractor after a fall is wise so the doctor can assess if the lumbar spine needs to be adjusted to remove any nervous system interference and ultimately boost that healing process. The chiropractor can also look at the knee joint itself and safely manipulate any joint restrictions. This can restore some of the lost range of motion quicker than many realize. It’s not a magic bullet but it can be quite helpful.
Supplementation or muscle work – When you’re at your chiropractor, ask if supplementation with vitamins or natural compounds may be helpful to control the inflammation process or promote healing. You can also ask if the injured joint may benefit from hands-on muscle work from either a physical therapist or some other manual therapist professional. This may be a wise choice as they will likely also walk you through the steps of strengthening the joint in a full rehab protocol.
MCL sprains are common to the winter season. They can put a cramp in your wintertime activity and daily life. The better you are at stopping and taking a moment to gather yourself right after the injury, the better chance you’ll have to make a wise decision on what to do next. Although healing may take some time, there are plenty of good conservative care options that your chiropractor can help you with along the way.
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