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A person can treat a torn knee ligament at home with rest, support and pain management. In some cases, however, a torn ligament is severe enough to require a visit to a doctor and maybe even surgery. The best way to treat a torn knee ligament also depends on which ligament is injured.
The knee's four ligaments work together to restrict the movement of the shin and thigh bones. The cruciate ligaments work to restrict forward and backward movement while the collateral ligaments limit the movement of these bones from one side to the other. The two cruciate ligaments are located inside the knee joint while the collateral ligaments are on the outside.
If one of the collateral ligaments on the outside of the knee is injured, it may heal on its own. In most cases, these ligaments do not require special treatment. A person may use over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to manage discomfort and rest the knee as much as possible, keeping it elevated above the patient’s heart level. For example, the injured party may rest the knee for a few days and reintroduce movement slowly and gradually. Using ice packs to reduce swelling and a compression bandage to support the knee may help.
Sometimes a knee ligament injury involves a torn cruciate ligament, such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which diagonally crosses the knee joint. This type of injury is common among those who play sports. Injuries of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the ligament that crisscrosses with the ACL, are more common after accidents that involve a high level of impact. A torn ACL or PCL may be treated in the same manner as a torn collateral ligament with rest, elevation, support and ice. Using such measures to treat a torn knee ligament may only prove helpful for small cruciate ligament tears, however. Surgery is often required to treat a more severely torn ligament.
Cruciate ligament surgery works to treat a torn knee ligament by reconstructing it rather than replacing it. For this procedure, a portion of a ligament or tendon from another part of the patient’s body may be used as a graft for the damaged ligament. A graft is a procedure used to attach one type of body tissue to another type of body tissue. In some cases, doctors use ligaments from human cadavers to reconstruct torn knee ligaments. Risks of knee ligament surgery include those typical of other surgeries, such as excessive bleeding, abnormal blood clotting and infection.