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Taking Control of Your MCL Injury Recovery: A Practical Guide to Pain Management and Healing

Maximizing Recovery: Best Practices for Managing Pain and Healing an MCL Injury

Close up photo of an athlete with knee injuryAttention athletes! Are you feeling pain, swelling, or instability in your knee after a fall or collision during your favourite sport? If the answer is yes, you might be one of the many athletes who suffer from the excruciating MCL injury—the most common knee injury!

Don’t let the pain and discomfort take over your life! With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can be back in action in no time.

 An MCL injury can be a devastating experience for any athlete. The pain can be unbearable, making even walking and simple activities impossible. The most common causes are direct impacts or overstretching of the ligament. However, there is good news! You can fully recover and return to doing what you love with the right care and attention.

That’s why we’re here to help!

In this blog, we’ll provide everything you need to know about managing the pain, recovering, and safely returning to sports or other physical activities. From the possible causes and symptoms to the available treatment choices and surgical interventions, we’ve got you covered.

 We understand how important your sport is to you, and we’re committed to helping you get back in the game.

So, let’s dive in and get you back to your winning ways!

Medial Collateral Ligament Injury Treatment: How to Manage Pain and Recovery to Safely Return to Sports and Activity

The most common injury for athletes is a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) in the knee. This can be caused by direct contact or overstretching. Symptoms include pain in the inner aspect of the knee, swelling, bruising, difficulty walking, and instability in the joint.

Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may range from rest and ice to physiotherapy and, in extreme cases, surgery. It’s important to know that MCL injuries can sometimes be hard to diagnose because their symptoms are similar to those of other knee injuries, like ACL or meniscus tears. 

To prevent further damage, it is important to see a sports physiotherapist or sports osteopath as soon as possible after an MCL injury occurs. If the injury is correctly diagnosed and treated, most MCL injuries can heal quickly and completely, with few long-term effects.

 What does an MCL tear feel like?

 MCL TEAR  The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is a vital ligament that helps stabilize the knee joint; therefore, even minor injuries can have a significant impact on mobility and quality of life. A torn MCL can be a very excruciating injury, and the pain is often felt immediately. It typically begins with acute pain on the inner aspect of the knee and can be accompanied by swelling and a sense of instability. Depending on the severity of the rupture, the area may also experience bruising or tenderness. Pain is experienced when attempting to stand or walk, as well as when bending or straightening the knee, making it challenging to perform daily activities such as ascending stairs or rising from a seated position.


What are the causes of MCL injury in the knee?

It is important to understand the anatomy of the knee and the role of the MCL in knee stability. The MCL is a ligament that runs from the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone) on the inner side of the knee. Its main function is to stabilise the knee joint and prevent the knee from bending inward. MCL injuries occur when the ligament is stretched or torn due to excessive force or pressure 

The most common cause of MCL injuries is a direct force applied to the outside of the knee, which pushes it inward. This type of injury is often seen in contact sports such as football, soccer, skiing, and hockey, where athletes may collide with each other or with objects on the field or ice. Sudden and forceful turning, twisting, or cutting can also cause MCL tears, which are common in sports like basketball and volleyball. Athletes who lift heavy objects or perform repetitive movements that put stress on the knee joint may be at risk for MCL injuries due to ligament wear and tear over time.

Who is at risk for an MCL injury?

Anyone can sustain an MCL injury, but certain people are more vulnerable. Due to the constant stress on the knee, people who play contact sports like football and rugby are more likely to hurt their MCL. Also, people who are overweight or obese may be more likely to hurt their MCLs because their extra weight puts more stress on the joint. People with weak muscles around the knee and low flexibility may also be prone to MCL injuries because they don’t have enough support. Those with a history of knee injuries or knee joint instability may be at greater risk for an MCL injury. People in these groups need to take the necessary precautions when doing physical activities to lower their risk of MCL injury.

Can you still walk with a torn MCL?

Certainly, it is still possible to walk with a torn MCL.

Nevertheless, depending on the severity of the injury and the individual’s medical condition, walking may initially require caution and a brace. Before engaging in any physical activity or exercise while recovering from a torn MCL, consult an osteopath or physiotherapist about your unique situation.

Can I bend my knee with a torn MCL?

It is best to treat an MCL tear by doing what your osteopath or physiotherapist tells you to do, because bending your knee too much or too quickly could cause more damage.

 How do I know if I have damaged my MCL?

 If your MCL has been injured, several methods exist to determine if it has been compromised. Initially, you may experience knee pain or discomfort that is exacerbated by certain movements. You may also experience tenderness or edoema along the MCL’s path on the outer aspect of the knee. In addition, if you attempt to move your limb and it feels unstable or weak, this may indicate that your MCL has been damaged. Lastly, if you hear a popping sound when you injure your knee or if you are unable to extend it fully, this may indicate that your MCL is injured or ruptured. If you believe you have injured your MCL, you should see a sports physiotherapist or osteopath immediately to prevent further damage and ensure appropriate healing.

 How is an MCL injury diagnosed?

The first step in determining whether someone has injured their MCL is to obtain a medical history and a physical examination. An osteopath or physiotherapist will examine the knee for swelling, tenderness, discomfort, and instability. Imaging tests, such as an MRI, may also be ordered to get a closer look at the ligament and rule out injuries to nearby structures. X-rays can help rule out other possible causes of knee pain, and an MRI can identify any damage to the MCL. These evaluations help an osteopath or physiotherapist make an accurate diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment for MCL injuries.

As a sports osteopath, I have observed a high incidence of MCL injuries caused by excessive valgus stress with or without excessive external rotation (ER) at the knee, frequently as a result of block assaults and other contact sports. This form of injury occurs most frequently on the playing field. MCL injuries have one of the highest healing rates, which is excellent news. The most prevalent symptoms of an MCL injury are pain, swelling, and tenderness on the inner aspect of the knee. Additionally, some people may experience knee instability or a sensation of the knee giving out. In severe cases, injuries to other structures, such as the ACL or meniscus, may be present.I usually begin by conducting a comprehensive physical examination of the knee to determine what is wrong with it. This involves looking for symptoms of swelling, tenderness, instability, decreased range of motion, and diminished strength. I may also inquire about the patient’s symptoms and the injury’s specifics, such as how it occurred and when symptoms first appeared. In certain cases, additional diagnostic tests may be required to corroborate the diagnosis. For instance, I may request an X-ray or MRI to determine the severity of the injury and rule out other potential causes.MCL injuries are prevalent on the playing field, but they have a high rate of recovery when treated properly. If you suspect an MCL injury, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention to receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. 

– Dr Jovan Oghanna, Sports Osteopath Premier Sports Medicine Melbourne

What should I do if I think I have damaged my MCL?

To ensure a proper diagnosis and appropriate MCL Injury recovery, it is important to see a healthcare professional who specialises in sports medicine or knee injuries. If you are experiencing symptoms of an MCL injury, you can schedule an appointment with a specialist in your area by contacting their clinic directly or through a referral from your primary care doctor. Quick and accurate diagnosis and treatment can help you recover more quickly and return to your normal activities with less pain and discomfort.

How long does it take an MCL injury to heal?

 Yes, a torn MCL can recover naturally over time. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may take weeks or months to recover completely. Resting the injured knee will help reduce pain and inflammation. The length of time it takes for an MCL injury to recover depends on the severity of the injury as well as age and general health.

 Typically, mild MCL sprains require between two and six weeks to recover with conservative treatment. More severe sprains or injuries, with or without other injured structures, may necessitate surgery, in which case recovery can take several months.

 Apply the PRICE protocol (protect, rest, ice, compress, and elevate) and seek medical advice from an osteopath or physiotherapist as soon as possible after any MCL injury to receive appropriate treatment.

 A physiotherapist or osteopath will teach you the best exercises to regain strength and mobility. If they are diligent and follow the physical therapy instructions, the vast majority of people who have injured their MCL can recover in a few months or less and, importantly, not suffer from ongoing problems related to their injury.

Should I wear a knee brace for an MCL injury?

The decision to wear a knee brace for an MCL injury recovery is highly individualised and dependent on the severity of the injury. If your knee hurts or feels unstable when bent, you should generally wear a knee brace to enable the ligament to heal and prevent further damage. In addition, if you have edoema or have already undergone surgery for an MCL injury, you may be instructed to wear a knee brace. The best method to determine if wearing a knee brace for an MCL injury is appropriate is to consult your sports medicine doctor or physiotherapist and base your decision on their recommendations.

What does a Grade 1 MCL sprain feel like?

Examining a Grade 1 MCL sprain

 A Grade 1 MCL sprain is the mildest type of sprain and can feel like minor stretching or pulling on the affected side. Depending on the severity, it may also cause localised edoema and tenderness. Twisting or turning may be painful during physical activity, and the joint may feel unstable when moved. You may also experience a decreased range of motion as a result of the injury.

A grade 2 or 3 sprain is a common injury that, if not properly treated, can last for a long time. Unfortunately, many people with this type of injury do not receive the proper bracing, which can reduce their healing capacity and increase their risk of laxity or symptoms. Bracing is essential to the healing process because it enables the ligament to recuperate to its fullest potential and reduces the likelihood of post-injury laxity or symptoms.

Without the correct bracing, athletes may not be able to recover completely, resulting in ongoing knee pain and instability. Additionally, persistent laxity or symptoms can increase an athlete’s risk of re-injury, making it challenging for them to continue playing their sport. In such situations, surgical intervention may be necessary.

People with a grade 2 or 3 sprain must wear the proper brace for the best possible outcome. A comprehensive evaluation by a medical professional, such as an osteopath or physiotherapist, can help determine the best course of action and ensure the injury heals properly. With the right care and support, individuals with a torn MCL can resume their desired level of activity.

What is the quickest method for recovering from an MCL injury?

The quickest method to recover from an MCL injury is to seek immediate medical attention and adhere to the instructions of an osteopath or physiotherapist.

It is essential to elevate the injured area, apply ice and compression, and rest the injured area in order to reduce edema. To alleviate pain and inflammation, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be administered. Physiotherapy and osteopathy exercises can help restore joint mobility and strength.

A brace may be recommended for severe injuries to stabilise the muscles while they heal. If the rupture is severe or other ligaments are damaged, surgical intervention may be necessary. Throughout your recuperation, it is essential to maintain consistent contact with your osteopath or physiotherapist. The majority of patients can recover completely within four weeks of their initial diagnosis with proper rest and rehabilitation.

When is surgery on the MCL required?

When an injury is severe and the MCL has been completely or partially ruptured, MCL surgery is typically needed. An MRI can help determine the severity of the injury, and surgery may be recommended if the rupture is causing or could cause instability in the knee joint. Depending on the severity of the injury, the procedure used to heal a torn MCL may involve arthroscopy or open surgery for the repair or reconstruction of the ligament. In some instances, physical therapy and rehabilitation may be sufficient to restore knee strength and stability without the need for surgery.

Preventing Further MCL Injury: Tips for Protecting Your Knee Joint

Even though rest and rehabilitation can help cure the injury, it is essential to prevent further damage to the MCL. Here are some suggestions for preventing MCL injuries:

  • Wear supportive footwear: Wearing supportive footwear with excellent arch support can help reduce knee stress, thereby decreasing the risk of MCL re-injury.  Additionally, it is essential to routinely replace worn-out shoes to ensure that they continue to provide adequate support.
  • Strengthen the muscles that surround the knee: Strengthening the muscles that surround the knee can help to stabilise the joint and lower the risk of further MCL injury.For developing leg strength, squats, lunges, and leg presses can be beneficial.
  • Use proper form during activities: Using proper form is essential for reducing the risk of knee injuries, whether playing sports or performing everyday tasks. For example, it is essential to land softly on the balls of the feet when running or jumping to reduce the impact on the knees.
  • Take breaks and rest as needed: excessive knee joint use can increase the risk of MCL injury.Taking necessary breaks and resting can help prevent overuse injuries and allow the knee to recover.
  • Consider donning a knee brace: Depending on the severity of the MCL injury, it may be recommended to wear a knee brace during physical activity to provide support and stability to the joint. Consult your physician or physical therapist to determine if a knee brace is appropriate for you.

Preventing further injury to the MCL is an essential component of the healing process. By wearing shoes that support your feet, building leg strength, using the right form, taking breaks when you need them, and thinking about getting a knee brace, you can reduce the chance of another MCL injury and get back to your normal activities faster.

How to Safely Return to Physical Activity After an MCL Injury


After an MCL injury, returning to sports and other physical activities can be difficult. It’s important to do exactly what your doctor tells you to do, since his or her instructions are based on your needs and the severity of your injury. Starting slowly and gradually increasing your activity level over time can help you avoid re-injury and give your knee time to get used to being active again.

Also, it is important to wear shoes with good support and any other equipment prescribed by a doctor, like a knee brace, to keep the knee stable and reduce the risk of further injury. Strengthening and stretching exercises can also be advantageous. Your physical therapist can give you suggestions for exercises that are safe and appropriate for your needs.

Nevertheless, it is essential to pay attention to your body and cease the activity immediately if you experience pain or discomfort. Pushing through pain can result in further injury and prolong the healing process. Keep in mind that the goal is to get back to sports and other activities in a safe and effective way that doesn’t put your knee health at risk.

By following these rules and being careful, you can safely get back to your sports and activities after an MCL injury. You can return to your active lifestyle and reduce the likelihood of future knee injuries with perseverance, commitment, and proper care.

In conclusion, MCL injuries can be hard to deal with, but with the right diagnosis and treatment, you can get better and get back on the field. It is crucial to seek medical attention immediately following an MCL injury to prevent further harm and ensure proper healing. Our sports osteopaths and physiotherapists are experts in diagnosing and treating MCL injuries and can help you return to sports and activities safely.

At our sports clinic, recognise that each patient’s circumstance is unique, and we provide individualised care to assist with pain management and recovery. We employ cutting-edge techniques and technology to help you regain knee strength and mobility. Initial evaluation to determine the severity of the injury is followed by a personalised treatment plan that may include Physiotherapy for MCL Tear, anti-inflammatory medications, and, in severe cases, surgery.

Suffering from any type of ligament injury can be challenging, especially when it affects your sports and daily activities, so it’s essential you have an expert by your side to help you navigate the injury and return to sport. We believe that communication is essential to the recuperation process, so we keep our patients informed and involved at every stage of their care. We provide extensive assessment and treatment options for MCL injuries so that you can make informed decisions regarding the best treatment for your injury. Understanding MCL tear recovery time and effective management strategies can significantly influence the healing process, ensuring a faster and safer return to your active lifestyle.

Do not let an MCL injury prevent you from pursuing your passions. Schedule an appointment with our clinic immediately and allow our sports osteopaths and physiotherapists to assist you with pain management and recovery. We’re here to give you the best care possible and help you get back to the sports and activities you love in a safe way.

For more insights and personalised guidance, visitt our page at premiersportsmedicine.com.au to discover how we can assist you further in achieving a successful recovery. Let us help you get back in the game!

Your Questions Answered 

What are common symptoms after an MCL injury that might affect overall wellbeing?

Common symptoms include knee pain, swelling, instability, and sometimes extreme tiredness and headaches due to pain and stress on the body.

After an MCL (Medial Collateral Ligament) injury, the immediate symptoms most often include pain at the inner side of the knee, swelling, and a feeling of the knee giving way under stress or load. These primary symptoms can significantly affect a patient’s mobility and comfort. In addition to these, the strain of managing chronic pain and reduced mobility can lead to broader systemic symptoms such as extreme tiredness and headaches. These symptoms are due to the body’s overall stress response to injury and the increased effort needed to perform daily activities.

How can I manage extreme tiredness and headaches while recovering from an MCL injury?

Manage these symptoms by maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, ensuring adequate sleep, and possibly consulting with a healthcare provider for pain management strategies.

Managing side symptoms like extreme tiredness and headaches during the recovery of an MCL injury involves several holistic approaches. Adequate hydration and a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can significantly influence energy levels and recovery speeds. Ensuring that you get enough sleep is crucial, as the body repairs itself most effectively during rest. Moreover, pain management, which may include medication, physical therapy, and alternative practices like acupuncture, can reduce the headache and fatigue caused by chronic pain. Always consult with a healthcare professional to tailor a safe and effective recovery plan.

What are the best practices to enhance healing from an MCL injury?

Best practices include following a structured physical therapy regimen, using ice and compression to reduce swelling, and avoiding activities that strain the knee.

Enhancing healing from an MCL injury typically involves a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), especially in the initial stages post-injury to manage swelling and pain. A structured physical therapy program tailored to strengthen the knee and restore its functionality is crucial. Additionally, patients are advised to modify their activities to avoid further stress on the injured ligament, which means temporarily avoiding sports and heavy lifting. Regular consultations with healthcare providers are essential to monitor the healing process and adjust the treatment plan as needed.

For more information on MCL injuries, treatment options, and how to prevent future injuries, visit our homepage and explore our vast resources on sports medicine and physical therapy.


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