Sprained Knee: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

The knee plays a major role in our regular daily activities and is also the largest joint in the body. It is a hinge joint in the body found between the thigh and leg. It is made up of bones, ligaments, and muscles.

A sprained knee is when there is an injury to the surrounding ligaments of the knee joint.

What Can Cause A Sprained Knee?

1. Trauma

This is when there is an external force to the knee joint. This can be during a car accident or during a sporting activity. An example is when two players are playing soccer and one player hits the other player’s knee. This can lead to a ligament sprain.


2. Sudden Twisting Of The Knee

A knee twist during an awkward fall can lead to a sprained knee. For example, slipping and falling while wearing a high-heeled shoe can twist the knee cause an injury to the ligaments in the knee.

3. Not Warming Up Properly Before Sports

The body should be prepared before serious sports. This is why warm-up is necessary. Not warming up properly puts the knee joint at risk of a sprain. If the muscles are not well prepared, it puts a lot of stress on the bones and ligaments.

4. Wearing Inappropriate Footwear

Wearing inappropriate shoes increases the weight acting on the knee joint because the feet are not well balanced. Continuous wearing of wrong shoes puts the knee at risk of getting unstable and causing ligament sprain.

5. Bowed Leg

This is a deformity in which the knees curve outwards which causes an overstretching of a knee ligament. This makes the knee unstable and makes the overstretched ligament susceptible to a sprain.

6. Knocked Knees

This is a deformity in which the knees move inwards, it can overstretch the medial collateral ligament.


Grades Of Knee Sprain

Grade I

This is a mild ligament injury. The ligaments overstretch but they do not tear. The knee may not swell so much but there could be mild pain.

Grade II

This is a moderate ligament injury. Some ligaments partially tear. This causes swelling and a lot of pain.

Grade III

This is a severe ligament injury. The ligaments tear completely. This causes swelling, pain, and bleeding under the skin.

Symptoms Of Knee Sprain


The pain usually starts immediately or a few minutes after. The pain may feel like a throb.


Once a ligament is injured, there is an inflammation process that takes place, it can cause joint swelling.



When there’s an injury to a ligament, the knee can become unstable.


This is when there is bleeding under the skin after a ligamentous injury.


If you feel pain just by touching the affected area, that means it is tender.

Tingling sensations

Sometimes, torn ligaments can cause nerve compression and may make you feel tingling sensations down your feet.


Due to pain and swelling, it will be quite difficult to move the knee. Due to no movement, the knee can get stiff.

How Is A Knee Sprain Treated?

A knee sprain can be a serious injury. If you suspect a sprain, it’s important to inform your doctor as soon as you can. You should try to avoid knee movements during this period. Here are some ways a sprain is treated.

Pain Relievers
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Doctors may most likely prescribe anti-inflammatory pain-relieving drugs for a sprained knee. Since one of the symptoms is swelling, the anti-inflammatory drugs assist in reducing the swelling internally and also help reduce pain in the knee.

P. R. I. C. E

This is an acronym used to treat a sprained knee.  This should be done as soon as possible. It means:

P – Protect

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The injured knee should be protected. A knee brace or a Kinesio tape will protect the knee from further injury, which can occur by moving the knee joint.

R – Rest

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It is advised not to bear weight on an injured knee. Rest basically means, “let the knee be”. Crutches are usually recommended to avoid weight bearing on the injured knee. Rest allows the natural healing process to take place.

I – Ice

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Ice reduces swelling and also relieves pain. Place an ice pack for 15 – 20 minutes on the affected site or crush ice in a damp towel for 15 – 20 minutes every 4 hours. Ice should be placed in a towel in order to avoid frostbites.

C – Compress

Compression helps to reduce swelling. A crepe or elastic bandage can be wrapped around the knee joint. The bandage should not be too tight but firm.

E – Elevate

Raise the affected limb using pillows above the heart level. Elevation reduces swelling.


In some cases, the doctor may recommend surgical treatment. This depends on the severity of the injury.

Recovery Time

Recovery takes a few weeks for mild sprains while those that require surgery may take several months for adequate healing to occur.


Here are some tips to help prevent knee sprains:

  • Wear appropriate footwear
  • Warm-up regularly before sports
  • Avoid unnecessary high-risk physical activities that can lead to serious falls
Latest posts by Adekanmi Lipede, M.Sc, MPH (see all)
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