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The most important thing to consider when trying to treat a twisted knee is to decide the extent of the damage. A twisted knee is also known as a sprained or strained knee. The knee is a major joint that attaches the thigh bone to the shin bone through a series of tendons and ligaments. Twisted knees are fairly common and can occur at any age or level of physical activity.
To determine the extent of the damage, there are three simple tests that can be done. First, feel the knee itself with your hands. The knee should feel cool to the touch, but slightly tender. Sitting down, move your leg up and down, and then move it from left to right. If the leg is able to move through the entire range of motion but is slightly sore, it is probably a twisted knee.
If the knee is hot to the touch, visibly swollen, bruised, discolored, and unable to accept any weight, go to the doctor or medical clinic. Apply an ice pack to reduce the swelling, but understand that this is a temporary measure to increase your comfort and is not a treatment. Do not wait to see if the knee improves, as the heat and swelling is an indicator of deeper damage.
To treat a twisted knee, there are three things you should do as soon as possible after the injury occurs: rest, ice, and elevate. Avoid putting any weight or pressure on the knee by using crutches or a cane when walking. Apply an ice compress for 30 minutes at least three times a day. Elevate your knee when sitting by using a stool or chair to keep the knee up. Avoid keeping it too straight, as this may strain the joint and make the knee feel stiff.
The three-step treatment plan should be followed for no more than five days. If the twisted knee is still sore after five days, it is best to see a doctor. There may be something else wrong with the knee. Once the knee is no longer sore, strengthening exercises are normally prescribed to strengthen the tendons and reduce the chance for repeated injury.
The first exercise to strengthen a twisted knee is to add a weight bag to the ankle and lift the foot straight up while in a seated position. Repeat this exercise 15 times at least three times a day. Alternate this exercise with a sweeping motion moving the foot from left to right. These two exercises together will strengthen the primary supporting tendons in the knee.
Can You Twist Your Knee?
To understand why knee twists and sprains occur, you need to know about the structure of the human knee. It's a hinge joint, which means it allows one of the attached bones to move back and forth. The knee joins together several bones:
- Femur: the thigh bone
- Tibia: also known as the shin bone
- Fibula: running parallel to the tibia
- Patella: the kneecap
The knee also contains tendons and ligaments. It's easy to confuse the two, but a quick explanation can eliminate this confusion. Tendons are connective tissues that link muscles to bones. Ligaments, on the other hand, attach one bone to another. Tendons are vital for moving a joint, while ligaments provide stability to that joint.
Knee Ligaments and Tendons
Now that we know about tendons and ligaments in the knee, it's time to take a closer look at them. The anterior crucial ligament, commonly nicknamed the ACL, stops the femur from sliding backward on the tibia. The posterior cruciate ligament, also known as the PCL, prevents the femur from sliding forward. There are also two collateral ligaments, the medial and lateral. They inhibit any side-to-side motion of the femur.
Two important tendons are at work in the human knee. The quadriceps tendon attaches the thigh muscles to the kneecap. Meanwhile, the patellar tendon connects the kneecap to the top of the tibia. Because it's technically linking one bone to another, it's sometimes called the patellar ligament.
Three Types of Knee Sprains
As you now see, the human knee is a marvelous and complex structure. With this in mind, it's not surprising that a lot can go wrong. Sprains are only one type of injury that can impact the knee in serious ways. People commonly think of sprains as mild, but physicians classify them into three different categories:
- Grade 1: mild damage and stretching of the ligament, but retained ability to stabilize the knee joint
- Grade 2: stretched, torn and loose ligament
- Grade 3: complete tearing of the ligament into two pieces
How Can You Twist Your Knee?
A knee sprain or twist can result from a few different causes. This type of injury usually happens suddenly. You may be running or walking as normal but end up on the floor with a twisted knee with seconds. The suddenness of the injury can feel scary and disconcerting. Yet with first aid and proper medical attention, you can avoid worsening the damage.
Many knee sprains come from strenuous physical activity, often while playing sports or exercising. Common movements that cause the sprains can include running, jumping and landing. Stopping and then quickly changing direction can also result in a knee sprain. You may commonly see such injuries in activities like American football, soccer, rugby, hockey, basketball and skiing.
Sometimes, direct impacts can lead to sprains. These can occur while playing sports, but they can also happen in everyday life from falls, bumping into large objects and other mishaps. Car accidents may produce knee sprains, especially with possible direct impacts to the knee during a collision. Occasionally, sprains occur when sudden excessive weight is placed on the knee joint.
How Long Does It Take a Twisted Knee To Heal?
Minor knee sprains can heal within six weeks. Severe sprains, however, can require several months or more than a year for recovery. Care and healing for a knee sprain can include immobilization, physical and occupational therapy, at-home exercises and surgery. Individual treatment plans vary according to the severity of the injury. A grade 1 knee sprain might require you to just wear a brace and do at-home exercises, while a grade 3 sprain almost always calls for surgery. As with any injury, you should follow your healthcare provider's directions and ask questions about anything you don't understand.
First Aid for a Knee Sprain
You must take a twisted knee seriously for the injury to properly heal. Even if your sprain doesn't feel overly painful or serious, you must still seek immediate medical attention. First aid is an important initial step that can aid in healing.
You've probably heard of RICE, which stands for "rest, ice, compression and elevation," a first aid method for treating a knee injury. Immediately after being injured, you must avoid moving your knee. Apply an ice pack for 15 minutes to the injured area, waiting at least 40 minutes between applications. Bandage your knee snugly, but not too tight, and extend the wrap both slightly above and below your knee. Finally, keep your knee elevated above your heart until you can get to a doctor or hospital.