ACL vs. MCL Tears: What Are the Differences?

Your ACL and MCL are both ligaments in your knee. The two ligaments connect your femur (thigh bone) to your tibia (shin bone) and protect the menisci that cushion the knee joint. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a tear can help you identify which of these two ligaments is injured and receive appropriate treatment.

runner-knee

What is an ACL tear?

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is located in the middle of your knee and helps stabilize the joint. ACL injuries commonly occur while playing sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, such as basketball, soccer, tennis, or football.

Injuries can range from overextending the ligament to a full tear. A mild injury may strain the ligament but keep it intact. Moderate to severe injuries can cause a partial or full tear of the ligament. You will likely hear a “popping” noise if that type of injury occurs. You may experience swelling or be unable to put weight on the injured knee.

What is an MCL tear?

The MCL, or medial collateral ligament, runs long the inside of your knee and keeps the joint from over-extending. It also connects your shin to your thigh bone. Athletes who play high-contact sports like football or hockey may injure the MCL when colliding with another player. The MCL is often injured when the outer knee is hit very hard, causing strain on the inner knee.

When the knee is twisted, bent, or pushed to the side in an unnatural way, the ligament will stretch and result in a partial or full tear. You may hear a popping sound, followed by pain and swelling along the inside of the knee.

ACL vs MCL Symptoms

Both ACL and MCL tears can result in the following:

  • A popping sound
  • Swelling
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Knee feels unstable
  • Unable to put weight on the knee

Although the symptoms are similar, a few key differences will help you identify whether the injury affected the ACL or MCL. An ACL tear will have a more distinctive and loud popping sound than an MCL tear.

Additionally, the location of your pain and swelling could indicate either an ACL or MCL tear. You will likely feel pain in the center of your knee during an ACL tear. Because the MCL is located on the side of your knee, the pain and swelling will be located on the inside of the knee structure rather than the middle.

Treatment and Recovery for ACL vs. MCL Tears

Immediately after injuring your knee, apply ice to the area, use a compression garment to stabilize the joint, and prop up your knee to elevate it until you can get medical treatment.

Dr. Heiden will evaluate the condition of your knee and guide you in rehabilitation. He will provide a stabilizing brace and may recommend crutches during the initial healing process.

Moderate to severe ACL tears can require surgery to resolve. In most cases, a graft is used to replace the torn part of the ligament. Recovery can take six months or more depending on the severity of the injury. Dr. Heiden will help you determine if surgery is necessary. An MCL tear rarely needs surgery and typically heals after approximately eight weeks of focused rehab. Heiden Orthopedics treats a range of ligament injuries, including ACL and MCL tears. Learn more about the knee anatomy and procedures.

For further information on ACL tears, read our article on ACL Tear Symptoms and Treatments.

100 Comments


Can you please help the basketballer Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors with quick ACL recovery please

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Fallen down while standing, patella dislocated. orthopaedic surgeon placed it properly. Still swelling and pain while bending the knee backward. Please suggest treatment. Age of patients is 15 years.

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    When a patella dislocates and has to be put back in place, the first line treatments are physical therapy, rest, ice and activity modification. If pain or limitation persists after this, then it is worth being evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon. If you have further questions, please give us a call https://heidenortho.com/locations/salt-lake-city-clinic/
    -Dr. Daniel Gibbs

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I have knee pain on the inside of my knee next to my knee cap I was wondering why I had a football injury several years ago they told me knee sprain but it still sometimes swell up still and hurt

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    Kenny,

    There are several things that can cause a knee to swell, including a problem with the meniscus or cartilage. I would recommend being evaluated again by a Orthopedic surgeon to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. -Dan Gibbs, M.D.

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Hi so I was doing a yoga class. I was doing a standing Lotus position with my right knee bent and standing on my left foot. As I bent my standing leg into a squatting position I put stress on my anterior right knee and I heard a loud pop as it went down. I was able to straighten my knee and walk on it the rest of the day. This morning I am very sore I can still walk fine but with some acute pain on the anterior knee.
I do not think it is a tear maybe a strain or bruise what can I do to fix this. Besides ice and rest?

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    Michael,
    Ice and rest really are the best things to do if you believe you have a strained muscle. Anti-inflammatory medicines can also be helpful (please consult your doctor), and LIGHT stretching, but only after the pain subsides and it has started to heal. If you notice it isn’t healing very quickly you may want to consider a rehabilitation program through Physical Therapy and check for a more severe strain or tear. All the best!

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Hi!

I completely ruptured my PCL a few years ago. And just injured my MCL- Grade II sprain and maybe? meniscus (no MRI)? What is recommended treatment?
Thank you.

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    Julia,
    You will want to see an orthopedic knee specialist, if you haven’t already. After a thorough evaluation to determine the issue, they can recommend appropriate treatment.

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I stepped down easily while climbing from a machine to the ground and as my weight rested my knee popped loudly then my body weight seemed to pivot on the joint. I have a huge knot just above the knee cap on the outside of my thigh. It was 2 weeks ago and the knot is still there. It feels like a lump of muscle curled up. Same density as muscle and it’s not gooey like fluid build up. I am 48 a single father of a disabled child and cant stop working or we will be homeless. The pain centers in the knee but when climbing stairs or walking down an incline the pain radiated from the inside of th knee. When It happened the noise was a very loud crisp pop and i immediately broke out in a cold sweat from the pain. Any ideas?

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    Timmy,
    I am terribly sorry for the late reply; I’m not sure how I missed this comment.
    I am hoping you were able to see an orthopedic knee specialist and get your knee pain taken care of. Injuries that limit our daily activities are always hard to cope with, but with adequate treatment we can often be back to normal quickly. I’m wishing you and your child all the best! Please let me know if you have any further questions.

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What about when the pain is on the outside of the knee? (minor fall on snow skis). The treating doc on the snow fields indicated that it was a ‘distortion’ (sprain?) affecting the area of the joint where the tibia and fibula are located… so maybe lateral collateral ligament or lateral meniscus?

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    Hi Rachel. The main pain generators on the outside part of the knee are the lateral meniscus, IT band, LCL (lateral collateral ligament). I would recommend seeing an orthopaedic surgeon for further treatment and guidance. All the best.

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Saw orthopedic surgeon a week and a half ago he told me to put weight on it and then I had a sharp pain. I now have more swelling and my movement is more strained and I can’t bear weight. What can I do to help? Now

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    Mindee,

    Have you already seen a Physical Therapist? If your orthopedic surgeon has suggested you start using it, it can be helpful to see a physical therapist to monitor your progress and help you take cautionary steps. If you feel putting weight on it has caused additional injury/issues, I would recommend going back to see an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation.

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I slammed into the ground after a Motorcycle accident. I landed feet first, my legs buckled in, then they hit the ground followed by my tailbone and an slide from what Im told. The hospital took an x-ray and said nothing was broken but they gave me crutches and a knee immobilizer. Didnt say how long to use any of it.
Acetaminophen/Codeine mix doesn’t help the pain. I cant limp around without the brace, and i cant twist the leg, bend at the knee, or even lift my leg up. No fast movements and no straighting my leg completely either, outside of pain my leg just wont do it. I feel a tightness towards the back inside of the knee. It hurts on the inside of the knee primarily with it radiating to the middle and below the knee towards the middle and inside of the leg. Its been a few days and I have some minor bruising starting to show.
Is it my ACL or my MCL or something completely different?

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    Hi Shelby. The main structures that cause pain on the inside park of the knee are the meniscus and the MCL. I would recommend seeing an orthopaedic surgeon for further treatment and guidance. All the best.

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I had a knee ACL tear 3 years back on a soccer training twisted the knee and heard a loud popping sound but since then I’ve been managing it but anytime I jug long distance or have sex I feel terrible pain in my knee after. Please what do I do? Do I need surgery to fix it? if yes how do I get in touch with a very moderate amount?. Thanks

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    Gobir,

    I’m sorry to hear you’re still having pain. Jogging can be extremely hard on the knees – this, and other weight bearing activities, can definitely exacerbate a knee injury that hasn’t had the chance to heal, or that has healed inadequately. It is hard to say if you need surgery without a consultation and evaluation. I would recommend seeing an Orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine specialists, to obtain an updated diagnosis and proper treatment plan. If you are looking to start somewhere more moderate, I would suggest seeing a Physical Therapist, as they can also point you in the right direction for recovery.

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My knee popped while walking up the stairs. Now I have pain in the back of my knee and up front just below my knee cap. When bending to sit I feel a sharp pain right at my knee cap. Should I just ice or see someone.

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    Chris,
    If you felt a pop and are continuing to have pain, I would advise getting it checked out. A physician can quickly rule out an MCL/ACL tear, or any other possible injuries.

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Hi please doctor i had an injury few months ago at basketball court I dunked but landed wrongly then I slipped with my right knee so after the RICE formula I feel pain at the down left conner of my right knee then a pop swelling at the right conner of the right knee when bend backwards then little stiffness at the back of my right knee when bended towards my buttocks pls what could be the problem?

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    Hi Rotimi. There are a lot of things that could be causing your symptoms including an effusion (or water on the knee). If you are concerned, it is always best to be evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon. Thank you for your comment, Dr. Gibbs

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During a football game in September 2019 , a player fell on my knee bending it inwards. Physicians and doctors ruled it an ACL tear, so I got the surgery in December 2019. Now its May 2020, I’ve been jogging, and doing some leg workouts, but every once in a while my knee will give out in a second like if I jump and unstably land, or if I cut too quick and sharp. The pain is on the inside part of the knee, a little below the center of the knee. This makes me think I have a problem with my MCL. Does this mean they messed up my surgery and forgot to see if I have issues on my MCL, because I don’t feel any pain on the center of my knee where the ACL is.

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    Hi Mikki. It is hard to say for sure what is going on but I would want to look at both your MCL and your medial meniscus. If you are concerned, it is always best to be evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon. All the best, Dr. Gibbs

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Turned to My left to walk and felt a sharp snapping/popping sensation just to the left of my Right kneecap. Am able to walk on it and took a Motrin which helped a lot but later that night developed near unbearable pain in that knee that made it uncomfortable to leave it in a relaxed position. Awful.. just from pivoting to the left.

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    Amanda,
    I’m sorry to hear you are in pain due to your knee. I would recommend seeing an Orthopedic knee specialist to rule out injury.

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I had a player land on the outside of my knee during basketball. I was told it was a knee sprain and I stopped activity for about a month then used a bike for cardio and after 2 months started running. It’s been 5 months now and the knee is still in mild pain and still has swelling. Recently it has seemed to get worse. Did I not give it enough rest? Or is it more a more serious injury than I was told/thought? What should I do?

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    Taylor,
    If you are still experiencing pain I would recommend seeing an Orthopedics knee specialist to rule out a more serious injury. It is difficult to accurately diagnose without a proper examination. If you are still experiencing swelling 5 months after the injury though, you should seek further treatment. Swelling and pain should not be ignored. Wishing you the best! -Dr. Gibbs

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Right knee pain just below and to the right of middle of knee cap. Instability while walking. Excruciating pain anytime a pivotal movement is made. When injured a loud popping sound and feeling along with what is described as crumbling paper. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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    Brent,
    I am sorry to hear you injured your knee. I would definitely recommend seeing an orthopedic knee specialist to obtain x-rays, at the very least. It would be a good idea to check for an ACL tear or torn meniscus. Untreated knee pain can lead to more serious issues, such as arthritis, and untreated tears can lead to surgery. Wishing you the best!

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I landed awkward from jumping and heard a loud pop and had severe pain on the inside of my knee but the swelling and pain is in the center of my knee with most of the swelling above the knee. DR drained it said he took 33 cc of fluid from it and blood was in the fluid, he ordered a MRI but my insurance wont cover it until i reach the deductible so i have to pay the cost up front. so since i cant afford to how long can i go without getting it repaired without further injury?

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    Richard,
    The amount of damage you will do without treatment really depends on the underlining injury/issue. Unfortunately, the answer to that question lies in the MRI. If you do choose to wait on treatment you will want to avoid activities that aggravate the knee. If you choose to move forward with treatment, try getting quotes from several imaging facilities. Some locations will have payment options, which may be beneficial in this situation. We hope this helps!

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Hi,
I sprained my MCL 3 months ago now. I did the brace for 6 weeks and now have been out of the brace for 6 weeks. I’ve been running and it’s fine. I still have some pain especially kicking a soccer ball or sprinting, however I’m wondering why my MCL area is still tender to touch? Is that an issue that I should be worried about?
My physiotherapists says it’s completely healed.

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    Eliza,
    Thanks for the question. Any time there is persisting pain, we recommend getting a second opinion. All the best!

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Tore my acl in the right knee 7 weeks ago after slipping on a wet floor.the inner part of the knee is still bigger than the other.ill be getting an acl brace as first treatment.it says up to 3 weeks for swelling.how long can this last?and would sergery make it return to normal size?

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    If you are young and active I would recommend surgery for a torn ACL. The surgery will repair the damaged tissue and your chronic swelling will go away. John

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    Hi Jenny. Thanks for your message. An ACL tear can go along with a number of other injuries to the knee including injuries to the meniscus, cartilage and other ligaments. Swelling can certainly take time (like months) to get better, depending on what exactly was injured. Surgery is typically performed to restore stability and not to treat swelling. If you have any concerns, I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon. All the best, Dr. Gibbs.

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Hi Dr Gibbs… I had a fall about 3 weeks ago, but felt fine afterwards. My right foot tcaught in a stump and down I went after trying to stop myself falling. The inside of right knee began to hurt just a little a few days afterwards… and steadily Grew worse. I can walk on it … though I feel “tired and a little sore” if too much walking,: the interesting thing is how much the inside of my knee (mcl area, t think) hurts when at rest. Laying down to rest it, sleeping at night … there is a nasty ache on that area… more so than when the knee is “at work”
What would this be? Surely it shouldn’t hurt more at rest? It’s a deep pain… feels almost like the pain from sciatica…
Thank you very much.
Kerry

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    Hi Kerry. Sorry to hear about your knee. Often pain is worse at night because you can focus on the pain and the position your knee is in at rest is different than during activity. If it does not improve, I would recommend seeing an orthopaedic surgeon for evaluation. -Dr. Gibbs

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      Hi Dr. Gibbs,

      I was recently climbing and fell and landed awkwardly. Unfortunately all I can clearly remember is that I heard a loud tear. The pain was almost immediate, and the swelling started not long after. It was to the inside of my right knee, there was a blood pooling and bump was formed and after a day the whole knee was swollen. The pain is more to the inside of my knee as well. I’m wondering what is the possibility of having both an acl and mcl tear at the same time and what would that look like? Thanks

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        Hello Saad,
        I am sorry to hear about your fall and injury. I would highly recommend seeing an orthopedic knee specialist. I (or another doctor) would want to do an evaluation, and possibly imaging, to provide a comprehensive diagnosis.
        To answer your question though, yes it is possible to tear both the ACL and MCL. It is probably more common to tear the ACL and meniscus though. Imaging and evaluation can give your a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. All the best!

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Hi,
I have been having a slight discomfort in one of knees since I did a stretching session back in May. The knee has not been swollen at all, I haven’t heard a tear and the slight pain started the day following the session. The pain is focused primarily on the posterior side of the knee, almost on the side of the knee, with sometimes having a feeling that the pain goes towards the bottom of it. The state of the pain slightly improved over these months compared to the first days, but I still get it when I put weight on the leg. What could this be? how long should I expect it to heal? Thank you.

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    Mara,
    Knee discomfort and pain can be caused by many things. It isn’t a straightforward answer without an evaluation of your knee. If it is slowly healing on it’s own, it could be a sprain. I would recommend giving it the time to heal, taking extra precautions to reduce strenuousness activities until you’re back to normal. Simple sprains can heal within 2-4 weeks, while other types can take 4-6 months. The healing time is based on the type of injury and the rehabilitation program being followed. It is important to not rush the process, or you might make the injury worse. If your symptoms don’t improve I would recommend seeing an orthopedic knee specialist for evaluation.

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Ok….just gonna put it out there….2.5 years ago I was accidentally kicked by my horse. She hit just above my right knee and slightly to the inside. Didn’t see a doctor about it until about 1 year later to a chiropractor. The stiffness makes squatting unbearable, and still active, i land in a squat which sends me into pain….as if the knee is too swollen to bend. Pain and stiffness depends on the day, tenderness on the inside next to the knee cap varies as well. Before this happened, i spent 30 years of my life professionally dancing and baton twirling…. wondering if this is it for my knee?

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    Jill,
    you should absolutely see an orthopedic knee specialist. Have you had any imaging (MRI, X-ray, CT) of your knee? Ongoing pain in your knee should not be ignored. This doesn’t necessarily have to be it for your knee. A specialist can give you options after a thorough evaluation. Hope this helps.

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I was playing basketball and felt a strange feeling on the outside of my right knee. I didnt hear a pop but more like a flick. I was able to walk and even played a little longer. After we finished it felt A little unstable so i tried putting weight and it and felt discomfort. I was able to walk home 6(Block) but shortly after Arriving My knee had swelling mostly in the left and on top of knee cap. I also felt pain on the back side of the knee close to wear it bends. A day later im icing but it feels stiff. Does this sounds like a tear?

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    Matt,
    It is hard to diagnose an injury without seeing the patient or any imaging. Swelling and instability in the knee can be the result of several things – from a sprain, to patellar instability, to torn ligaments. I would recommend seeing an orthopedic knee specialist if you suspect a tear… and no more walking 6 blocks until you get your knee evaluated 🙂

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Hi,
Three days ago I went up for a mark in footy and felt like I got kneed in the air, with a direct hit to the left side of my left knee. It was sore From the hit but didn’t hear a pop sound or anything. I had it evaluated after the game and it wasn’t swollen and I had full range of motion without any pain. However 2 days later their was swelling on the top of my knee and it was sore to touch at the bottom left corner of my left knee. My physio said it’s likely to be an acl tear although I can step sideways, up and down on the injured leg. I can also one legged squat and still run as it still feels stable. I can fully extend my knee but can’t bend it past 90. And the fluid is still at the top of my knee and on the left side of my left knee. Just wanted to know what u think it could be. Thanks

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    Tristan,
    If your physiotherapists suspects an ACL tear I would highly recommend you follow up with an orthopedic knee specialist. The only way to accurately diagnose your injury is through evaluation and imaging. I would also recommend discontinuing any weight-bearing exercises until further evaluation. Hope this helps.

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I am desperately seeking assistance. Almost two years ago I was sitting on a low stool. I stood up and twisted to reach for an item. I felt a strain and weird sound in my knee and it started to hurt. Days after it became swollen and I was unable to put any weight on it. My knee has never recovered from this incident and I have been unable to go back to normal activity. Due to numerous years of military service I have many typical overuse injuries as well as arthritis. Prior to the incident I had intermittent pain in my knee but mostly the opposite knee. I’ve had multiple MRIs of the affected knee and continue to be told by Ortho that it’s just arthritis. I know my body and I’m certain this pain is not simply arthritis. This happened in the knee that I had the least trouble with throughout my military career.
Would you recommend arthroscopic surgery? I would very much appreciate your thoughts.

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    LF,
    I’m sorry you have been dealing with this for so long. I wouldn’t recommend surgery without a proper evaluation of your knee and reviewing your imaging results. If you are ever unsure about the information your doctor gives you, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion. If you have your MRI’s on a disc I would recommend scheduling an appointment for a second opinion and bringing the imaging with you. If you have been seeing a Physical Therapist they can also recommend another provider for your second opinion. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any follow up questions.

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I am in pain when I stretch my leg out straight to go to sleep and it swells up just above to the side of kneecap
I twisted my knee with full weight with my foot planted twice in a row then again a few days later 5months ago
Over the counter pain relic and t3 does not relieve the pain
I also do the rice method
I could not do a mri yesterday as the pain was too much to hold still when my leg was straighten out flat
What is this injury
Thx

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    Debbie,
    We are unable to give you a diagnosis without an evaluation. I understand the pain makes it difficult to obtain an MRI, but imaging really is the best way to determine the source of your pain. Talk to your doctor about options to relieve the pain long enough to complete the MRI, they should be able to help. All the best!

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got hit in knee playing football hurt extremely bad first 5 minutes felt fone next 2 days severe pain in whole knee now #bru#help

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    Jacob,
    I would recommend discontinuing sports/activity until you see an orthopedic knee specialist. If you are still experiencing knee pain you need to be evaluated before returning to sports. Also consider implementing the RICE method until you are able to be evaluated: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate.

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I’ve had two ACL reconstructions on the same knee and fear I’ve done it again. I’ve had patella graft taken from both knees. If I have done it again where would they take the graft from?

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    Jamin,
    Graft choices for ACL reconstruction and revision ACL reconstruction depend on many things, such as previous grafts used, bone tunnel placement during previous surgeries, the patient’s age and activity level, etc. Options for using one’s own ligament (autografts) include patellar tendon, hamstring tendons, or quadriceps tendon. Since you have had both patellar tendons harvested for your previous ACL grafts, there are still other autograft options available. There is also the option of using donor ligaments (allografts). If you feel you have re-injured your knee, I would recommend following up with your orthopedic surgeon to discuss your injury and further treatment options.

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I keep falling. My left knee keeps giving out. I have to take tiny baby steps and walk with a cane. I’m 38. I have to lock my knee into place before taking a step. Have pain under knee cap. I fall once every other week. Can’t lift myself off of a couch or chair unless I use the arms of a chair and my upper body. Last time I fell was 2 days ago. I heard a pop and felt a snap. Not too much swelling I put ice on it right away.

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    Rebekah,
    I would recommend seeing an orthopedic knee surgeon ASAP, especially if you keep falling.

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We had our motorcycle tip to the left, I’m the passenger. My left foot was pinned under the bike. After getting up didn’t have much pain in my left knee after a couple hours of riding my knee was stiff and painful. I cannot lift my leg, walk or bend with out sharp pain on the outside and top of my knee. I did not hear or feel a definite pop. Right away I thought torn meniscus. After reading the comments on here, now I’m not sure. I am on vacation and about a week from home and a doctor. Any tips on relieving the pain?

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    Leighanne,
    I hope you have since been able to see a doctor? Sorry for the delayed response. If you have not yet been able to get into a doctor and are still experiencing pain or swelling, that is my first recommendation. In the mean time, I would recommend rest, elevation and ice. Hope this helps.

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Dear Heiden

It’s been 5months after surgery to left shaft of femur with K-nail.. union is still progressive. While standing by bearing weight on knee from couch got very severe pain above the knee cap ..since then It couldn’t gone (45days). No swelling and redness at the area but feeling loose and it’s jerkining.walking with crutch and while knee flexion not very much pain. Should I continue excersice.
Lost job due to long time and in severe depression of finance.. please help

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    Nelson,
    I’m sorry to hear about your current situation. First and foremost, it is important to avoid exercise and go in for an evaluation if you are experiencing increased swelling, constant pain, or joints that are red or feel warm. With that in mind, the type of exercise should be considered if you are experiencing knee instability. It is important to not exacerbate the situation and focus on low-impact, knee strengthening exercises. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, especially if you are still using a walking crutch. If you feel that you reinjured your knee, I would recommend getting it evaluated by your doctor. I hope this information helps.

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Hello good afternoon.. I was standing in a bucket .. but with the hole on top …😰.. and as I reach for the item my leg sloped I. The bucket .. and as I fell heard a loud pop.. in the inside of my left knee .. I felt a sharp pain with aloud poop .. I reached for my leg and.. Pooped the knee in place.. 5 min later after .. sweating the pain away .. I was on top of the roof working .. later at night It started getting swollen.. but I’m determined to walk it off .. it has been a week and the swollen has not decreased minor pain when suddent move meant .. I’m a solar installer.. any good advice..?? 🤔

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    Miguel,
    All things considered, you need to go see an orthopedic knee specialist. The loud pop, continued pain and swelling should not be ignored. Ignoring your symptoms could lead to more injury. I’m afraid there are some things you just can’t walk off. All the best!

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      2 months ago I Stepped off a skateboard straight-legged at about 20mph on a slight decline. Leg twisted and buckled, no distinct popping sound. Consciously turned my body into the twist as I fell screaming. Pain subsided after a few minutes, tried to limp home – leg buckled under pressure, more screaming. It was initially dislocated; I felt it pop back into place when I folded into a car to the ER, and had a small wave of relief.
      ER X-rays showed a precisely straight break across the tibial plateau and fibula on the same plane. 0 displacement. Too much inflammation at the time to tell about any ligament damage. Health insurance won’t pay for an orthopedist. I’ve been in an immobilizer & on crutches since.
      Massive swelling has gone down now except an occasionally sore (after stretching) hump on the inside of the knee. Kneecap is aligned with the unaffected leg. With support it smoothly bends to 75 degrees, but I can’t straighten it more than a few centimeters. When I stand or lie flat, it straightens 75 degrees without issue and will flex to 90 with some amount of pain and patience. I’ve lately begun regular light stretching and seated toe lifts with a reticulated brace.
      My concern is that when I try those things unsupported, the movement feels “crunchy” and there’s piercing pain from the ACL. Since I can lift & move it forward a LITTLE, I’m hoping it’s a tear that will heal.
      My lifestyle is necessarily sedentary, and my bones are almost certainly not mended enough to bear weight. I’d like a little confirmation that I’m on a path likely to lead to walking without crutches within 6 months. Thank you for any kind response!

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        Kenya,
        A few things to note here:
        1. Typically, non-displaced tibial plateau fractures take up to 3-4 months to heal without surgery.
        2. Oftentimes, when people have Knee crepitus, they described it as “crunchy”. This is likely due to the cartilage in the knee being damaged or degenerated, so the bones cannot slide as easily in the joint as they normally do. Though the “crunchy” feeling could also have another source.
        3.Lastly, if you suspect an ACL tear I would recommend getting imaging of the knee. You will need to see a doctor to determine if the ACL cannot heal on it’s own, or if you can be rehabilitated through Physical Therapy.
        I understand your insurance will not cover a Orthopedic doctor, though seeing one would be my first suggestion. Given your current situation I would recommend seeing a Physical Therapist and/or your Primary Care provider at the very least.

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I dislocated my left patella to the inside of my knee 2 weeks ago. I’ve been using an immobilizer and a walker or crutches since. My knee is still swollen a d there is a lot of fluid behind my knee. I also have an excruciating amount of pain behind the knee and down my calf. My doctor suggested an MRI but what could be causing this? I’m worried about a blood clot.

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    Melissa,
    I agree with your doctor that getting an MRI is a good place to start. The MRI can help determine the source of your pain. Sometimes these scans can reveal a clot as well. If you are particularly worried about a blood clot you should express this to your doctor – he can order a test to be done right away. I hope this information helps.

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I’m 46 and took up skateboarding during Lockdown. Board got up to 20-25mph on the smallest hill ever.. Tried to drag my foot to brake, went down in a twisted, screaming pile – but No ACL “pop”.
The knee was initially dislocated; ER X-ray showed a straight line of “broken” across my fibula and tibial plateau, but with zero displacement. Immobilizer and crutches ever since, couldn’t afford the surgery. 3 months later I’m stretching daily, can now lift my leg from the knee so I know my ACL is working. Feeling pretty good about NOT having the surgery and regaining a lot of motion but still have a ring of swelling ABOVE the break. Is there a way to test my ability to walk/bear weight that doesn’t risk reinjury?

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    Kenya,
    It sounds like you possibly suffered a tibial plateau fracture, and there are many different types of this particular fracture, which determines the treatment plan and protocol after injury. Typically, at 3 months after this injury, the fracture is healed enough that you should be able to bear weight, but there is no way of knowing for sure without x-rays of your knee to determine how it is healing. I would recommend you see an orthopedist for an x-ray, official diagnosis, and to safely clear you to bear weight on that leg. All the best!

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I was exiting the shed and began walking when my left foot got caught in the ramp outside the shed, I fell directly into the front L-knee. I do not remember hearing any Pop, I did feel extreme pain to the entire knee which seemed to subside. Later that evening the pain increased and my mobility was limited due to the inability to straighten the leg. It’s 3 days later and I can walk ok, sometimes with a limp but I can’t bend the knee to bring it to my chest without excruciating pain to the back of the knee. It’s also popping sometimes as I walk, it’s never done that before.

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    JD,
    If you are still experiencing pain and popping I would suggest you see an orthopedic surgeon to check for injury and evaluate how to safely move forward. All the best!

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HI,

I fell skiing and hit my inner side of the knee pretty hard on a mogul. I felt my knee spasm not long after when I tried to stand on it. I got it checked out by a local doctor and after examining it he said that the knee looked solid and no breaks or tears. I am taking my time to recover and seem to be progressing well in my exercises, and my knee feels stable when I do them, but when I walk for longer than maybe 20 minutes my knee spasms. It has been three weeks since my fall. Is reaction in my knee normal?

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    Anna,

    If your doctor did imaging to rule out any tears or significant knee injuries, it is possible the spasms and twitches are the result of muscle fatigue or strain. Generally, knee sprains take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to heal, though some can take 4 to 12 months, depending on severity. Focus on rest as this will decrease swelling and allow the injury to heal. If you are still having concerns, reach out to your doctor again for a follow up appointment or get a second opinion. Wishing you a quick recovery.

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I was skiing in powder, made a turn and heard a loud pop on my downhill knee…I took a couple minutes to stretch it out and figured good enough, my last run I went to help a little girl down who tangled us up and twisted my same knee, now it keeps buckling when I walk, giving out like its missing a piece of the puzzle, im using a brace now in fear im going to do more damage…swelling has gone down, only hurts when it buckles, do I keep waiting for it to get better or get MRI? Sound like just a strain and will heal on its own (tomorrow preferably lol)?!

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    Christa,
    Oftentimes a “pop” in your knee followed by pain is the sound of a ligament tearing or cartilage breaking. ACL tears are especially known to make a popping noise during impact and are associated with instability in the knee (aka buckling or giving out). I would recommend getting in to see an Orthopedic knee specialist. They can help you order imaging and provide a proper diagnosis.

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I work as a car detailer which includes a lot of bending. For the past 2 weeks I’ve had on and off pain. It feels like it’s my knee sometimes and it feels like the top of my calf sometimes, hard to tell. But the longer I walk on it the more it hurts and I have a hard time bending my leg without significant pain.

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    Terrell,
    Have you reached out to your doctor? If the pain isn’t persistent, try some light exercises to strengthen your muscles and joints surrounding the knee. If you are unsure where to start, schedule an appointment with a Physical Therapist for guided exercises. You could have sprained your knee without realizing it and now it needs to heal.
    If you are having consistent knee/leg pain, I would recommend visiting an orthopedic knee specialist for an evaluation. When in doubt, it’s best to get it checked out.

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Hoping you have some good insight. Went for a 3 mile run 2 weeks ago. No trauma noted but immediately left knee swelled. Unable to bend knee without pain, cannot lift knee from a sitting position without significant pain. Pain is mainly located medial knee, sometimes lower corner. Sharp pains under knee cap that are random and I can’t duplicate. Ibuprofen and ice help but no improvement after 2 weeks. Wondering if I should wait it out?

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    ETA pain is worse with an unflexed or “loose” foot when I try to lift knee.

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    Kevnea,
    It is difficult to determine if your pain is due to a knee sprain, or something else, without a proper evaluation. If your pain seems to be slowly improving, you could wait it out and rest your knee until it is healed. However, if you feel the pain is getting worse or not improving at all, and/or accompanied by significant swelling or redness, I would reach out to your orthopedic specialist today. Hope this helps.

    Reply

Hi there hope you can help, had an accident 3 months ago, and cos them to the knee surgery in which they did a knee clean up took almost 4hours. Ever since I have been struggling to bend my knee full can only bend up to 30%. When bending it causes me serious amount of pain.

Physiotherapist saying its my nerves but each time I try to bend my knee it feels like something is blocking it and pain is very very sharp

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    Waqar,
    Have you returned to your orthopedic surgeon with your concerns? Healing can take time, and nerve recovery in general is a very slow process, it may take one year or longer if it truly is nerve damage.
    If you are concerned about the progress you’ve made so far though, I would recommend following up with your doctor. They may want to take new x-rays to determine the source of your pain and do a new evaluation.

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      Sorry for late response lost the link to this site. Knee bending is still very limited and getting really sharp pains inside and around the knee cap. Recently spoke to physio keep saying “it’s in my head” (the pain). Asked them to refer me back to the surgeon and in the letter physio wrote knee looks fine. They denying to even consider doing a scan

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        Waqar,
        You shouldn’t need the referral from your Physio to return to the doctor. Discuss these concerns with your doctor and they can help you determine if new imaging is required.
        If you still aren’t getting anywhere, consider getting a second opinion. Another set of eyes can be helpful.

        Reply

I tore my acl years ago. And they never did surgery or anyhring. I am in pain and it gets worse to walk and I’m always hearing a popping sound. What do I need to do

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    Paige,
    I would recommend getting a second opinion. See an orthopedic surgeon to obtain imaging and determine what course of treatment is available to you now. Hope this helps

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7 days ago, I fall from last steps of the stair. I hear a clik sound. No facture shown in X-ray. No pain and no swolling. My weight is 92. Is required any MRI. or after how many wait for MRI.

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    Rajesh,
    If you feel you need an MRI you should discuss this with your doctor, they can get one ordered for you. The wait on an MRI depends on your insurance authorization and facility availability. I hope this answers your questions. Happy healing!

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I was playing tennis and my leg slid from under me and my knee sharply bent. I have previously done my acl and had the new graft I’m 2 years post now.

This time instead of a loud pop It felt like likes pops and stretching. It hurt but I could weight bear and bend the knee. When I walk it feels morerestricted and there is pain on the outside of the knee and calf.

My Dr did the tests on it and said there wasn’t any abnormal movement. I also don’t have swelling. Is that a good indicator I have avoided doing the acl again?

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    Jacob,
    Without a full examination we are unable to determine if you injured you ACL again or not, or to what extent. If your doctor has cleared you then you should be good to heed their advice. If you are still concerned, I would recommend getting a second opinion. Wishing you all the best!

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I was walking and noticed my shins felt rather tight/stinging as I walked. I went to climb a rock with my left foot first to lift up and my left knee twisted outward and left me unable to put my body weight on it afterwards. There has been no swelling but the knee completely gives out when I attempt to put weight on it. I hobbled to an area where I could get an Uber home and once home, tried to get out of the Uber my left knee gave out completely and I fell. It’s not dislocated, there’s no pain-as such, no swelling but after a full day of resting the knee w/a knee brace and using a hot compress it feels tight and still unable to put full weight on it. I wonder if this is a strain on the mcl?

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    Halle,
    Typically a MCL sprain occurs when a sudden valgus (inward) force is placed on the outside of the knee, but it is difficult to determine without a specialist examining your knee. If you are having pain and difficulty bearing weight on that leg, then I would recommend you see an orthopedist for x-rays and a physical exam.

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Six days ago, on a Saturday, I was walking in a parade. At times I had to hurry to keep up with the unit in front of me and sometimes walked on uneven surfaces. I don’t remember anything specifically hurting or twisting anything but a couple of hours later I realized my left knee was in some pain. The pain was not severe and I was able to continue on with regular activities without much trouble at all. Over the next couple days the pain slowly increased but again was bearable. Sometimes I thought about taking ibuprofen but for the most part I just tried not to think about it and continue it on as normal. However, I realized after a couple days I was favoring the knee and limping a little bit. Monday evening found me caring for an active child and I was able to provide full care including getting on the ground and taking care of him. I took some ibuprofen that night before I went to sleep. Tuesday was a much rougher day. I had pain going down my whole leg at times and it felt like I really needed to stretch it. I think I had what people call sciatic pain. I felt that the pain had happened because I was favoring my left knee and not walking properly. I took ibuprofen several times and it seemed like it took the edge off but there were times when the nerve pain was suddenly bad. I made an appointment to see my chiropractor the next day (Wednesday). He did several adjustments and said that my hip had been out of place. The nerve pain disappeared after that but my knee still hurt. He examined the knee pretty thoroughly and said the knee was not out of place and he was hoping that after my hip and leg were adjusted that my knee would feel better in a couple of days. The knee was not, and is not, tender to touch.

The next day, Thursday found me in a situation where I was walking all day again. I was certainly aware of my knee, but occasional ibuprofen kept the pain down and I was able to function. During the night ( half an hour ago) when I went downstairs to get something to eat, I found it difficult to walk down the stairs because of pain in my knee. Although was having trouble b explaining exactly where the pain was but now it seems to be on the medial side of the knee. Laying flat in bed or putting my leg up relieves the pain. When I turn over in bed, I’m trying to be careful about how I move it. I’ve never had a known knee injury previous to this.

My insurance deductible is very high which means I will have to pay upfront for any treatment or tests which is something I do not have the ability to do if they are expensive. I am the breadwinner for my family as my husband is disabled and can’t work. Can you think of what this might be since it’s been a gradual problem over this week? At times I can walk fairly well but other times I’m limping. Do you think a knee stabilizer could help?

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    Unfortunately, knee pain can have several causes, including knee sprain, arthritis, ACL/MCL tear, etc.
    If the pain is mild and bearable, without significant swelling or instability, I would suggest starting with Physical therapy. The therapist can help you determine if a knee brace might temporarily help relieve pain. I’m not sure if this will be a cheaper option or not, but sometimes they can give you exercises to continue at home to help reduce cost.
    If you get to the point where you are unable to fully extend or flex your knee, have increased swelling, can’t bear weight, you have a fever, in additional to redness, pain and swelling, or you have severe pain, call your doctor.
    Hope this helps and happy healing!

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2 weeks ago, I was playing basketball and went up for a fast break lay-up. On the attempt, I kept my eyes up at the hoop until the ball went in. During this process, I wasn’t focused on my landing and came down awkwardly on my right leg in which it felt like it hyperextended and also a popping feeling.

Immediately I went to the ground and after about 1 minute I was able to limp off. I went to hospital and my X-rays were negatives and a MRI had been scheduled. The next day after the hospital visit, my knee was swollen, couldn’t bend all the way, and somewhat unstable. During this time, my knee was mostly tender on the right side and some parts of the inside.

It’s been two weeks and the swelling has went down mostly and my range of motion is coming along as well. The only problem know is that I’m beginning to feel pain in my calf muscles at times. I was hoping you would be able to give me some insight before heading into my MRI in two weeks.

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    Lamont,
    People often explain a popping sound/feeling in their knee when experiencing an ACL tear, along with instability.
    Additionally, x-rays don’t show soft tissue such as torn ligaments. This is where the MRI comes in. It can also be common to have calf pain after a ligament tear. This is not a diagnosis, and one cannot be provided without proper imaging, review of your medical records, and examination. Hopefully this information is helpful until you are able to get in for your MRI. All the best.

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Hello , i had severe dislocation of my knee 3 weeks ago at basketball match , i landed very bad
Right now i need to wear medical plaster for 1 and a half month .I don’t have any significant pain in my knee.Hopefully i didn’t tear my ACL but if i did what can i do.. that’s life and sports..

Thanks a lot

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