Knee Sprain Recovery-Why Physical Therapy?

knee ROM

Physical Therapy plays an important role in knee sprain recovery.

A knee sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments that support the knee. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other.

There are four major ligaments  that contribute to the stability of the knee.  By definition knee sprain does not indicate which of the 4 ligaments is involved. Knowing which ligament is damaged greatly affects the treatment the patient receives. The major cause of knee sprains is contact injuries from sports and vigorous exercise.

Knee Sprain Symptoms

Indications of knee sprain are: a popping heard with a contact injury, severe pain, swelling and  discoloration around the knee, difficulty in movement, instability when you try to stand and tenderness along the borders.

It is however important to note that the symptoms will vary depending on what ligament has been injured. Usually, when one ligament is severely strained, other parts of the knee may be affected as well. Even if the sprain is minimal, it is advisable to make an appointment with an orthopedist. He will advise you on the best remedy towards knee sprain recovery.

knee eval


Diagnosis is  based on the symptoms, your medical history and even the cause of injury. On the initial evaluation by the orthopedist a diagnosis can be made however to be accurate on the extent of the sprain, studies have to be performed. The orthopedist relies on x-rays and an MRI to be accurate.

Initial Treatment

Depending on the diagnosis, treatment could be as easy as following the RICE rule: resting the joint, icing the injured area (gets rid of the swelling), compressing the swelling with an elastic bandage, and elevating the injured knee. You could wear a knee brace and take anti-inflammatory medication. The knee sprain recovery should take between 2 and 4 weeks. During this acute phase the patient can perform light exercise but should be supervised by a qualified physical therapist.

Modality Treatment

US kneeThe most popular modalities used in physical therapy to aid in knee sprain recovery are electrical stimulators, ultrasound and cold low level light laser. The purpose of modalities is to decrease swelling and tenderness, stimulate the muscles surrounding the knee and decrease sensitivity. Using modalities allows the therapist to regain motion easier and advance an exercise program

Therapeutic Exercises

Range of motion and strengthening exercises are extremely important in knee sprain recovery. The emphasis of  strengthening is on the quadriceps/hamstring musculature to take the stress off the knee joint during weight bearing. Gentle range of motion exercises takes the stiffness out of the knee joint following the injury.

Serious Knee Sprains

QB strainSerious knee sprains such as anterior cruciate ligament tears will need to be rectified with surgery. Physical therapy is usually started immediately after surgery in the form of light isometric and gentle range of motion exercises. In a few days the patient is followed up in a physical therapy office to progress treatment and exercises.

How long a knee sprain takes to heal depends on the specific ligament, the severity of the injury, physical therapy and the type of sports you participate in!

As we have seen, physical therapy plays an extremely important role in knee sprain recovery. If you have a knee sprain, don’t just take medication, you undoubtedly need physical therapy to get your knee to function well.