Knee Sprain Treatment – Rehab Exercises to Heal Fast and Strong

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knee sprain treatmentManaging a knee sprain the right way, means faster healing, stronger healing and you get back to what you love faster – how could you say no to that!

Following on from the first post in this knee sprain series, where I outlined what you must do in the first 72 hours, I want to outline the knee sprain treatment and rehab exercises that will fully rehab your knee, the right way.

Knee Sprains Rehab with Non-Operative Treatments

Sprained knee, heal fast and strongThe medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the most frequently injured ligament of the knee, so it is important that YOU have the know-how, to rehabilitate it right from the start.

It is important for you to know and have peace of mind that knee sprains (when other structures aren’t also injured) do respond very well to non-operative treatment and rehab.

As Phisitkul et al state: “Nonoperative care has been proposed as the mainstay treatment for the majority of isolated MCL injuries regardless of severity”.

Treatment with early protected range of motion exercises and progressive strengthening has been shown to produce excellent results and a high rate of return to sports”

So let’s go through what your knee sprain (LCL or MCL) rehab involves and what the exercises are that will get you back faster and stronger.

Knee Sprain Treatment 

Effective knee sprain treatment must include:

  1. RICE – for the first 72 hours
  2. Brace (for high-grade tears)
  3. Proprioceptive re-training
  4. Range of motion exercises
  5. Strengthening exercises

If one of these aspects are missed or ignored, you could be left with ongoing, nagging pain or heal weaker, leading to future injury. Not ideal right?

Your rehab needs to be gradually progressed so that you body has time to adapt and get stronger. Our body is continually adapting to the forces that we put through it – So if you put the right controlled forces though your injured leg, it will get stronger and stronger.

We have talked about the first two components of sprained knee rehab and treatment in our earlier posts. For this post we will talk about the other three aspects, starting with Proprioception Re-Training.

1. Proprioception Re-Training:

Proprioception is the ability for you brain to know where you body is in space. If this is decreased, you have poor balance and increased chance of re-injury.

If you aren’t sure what proprioception is – extend one arm out to the side, close your eyes and mirror it exactly with the other arm – you could do this with your eyes closed because of proprioception.

Single leg standing (SLS):

Begin by standing on one leg on a solid surface (you can put one finger on the wall if you need to start with). When you can do this for 60 seconds, you can progress it by:

  • SLS on a folded up towel, layers of towels are great to use as you can easy progress this by adding layers and then finally rolling it up, tighter and tighter. Progressing each time when you can easily do it for 60 seconds. NOTE: Have a bench in front or to the side to grab onto if need be – but only if you have to!
  • You can also use Wobble boards, Bosu balls and balance boards when towels become to easy (or boring!) – Bosu ball are fantastic rehab tools if there is one available to you!

Continue to progress this through all phases.

2. Range of motion (ROM)

We recommend performing multiple exercises in a couple of phases to regain range of motion and  strengthening of muscles.

Phase one (first 1-2 weeks)

Due to pain, inflammation and limping, we lose range of motion (flexibility) very quickly and it is important to get this back as soon as possible to normalize movement and prevent secondary injury.

Note: continue to ice after use if there is pain, discomfort or swelling.

heel slides– Heel slides

  • Lying on your back or sitting
  • slide your heel up and down (bending knee up)
  • Do not push into pain
  • 3 sets, 10 reps
  • Do not push through pain

SLR-– Straight leg raise

  • Keeping leg straight
  • Lift leg 5-6 inches off the surface
  • 3 sets, 10 reps

inner range quads, quads setting for knee rehab– Quads setting

  • Roll a towel up and place under your knee
  • pushing your knee down into the towel
  • Lifting the feel up as shown
  • hold for 5 seconds, 10 reps

Progress to phase 2 when you can complete phase 1 exercises with little or no pain or swelling

Phase 2 of ROM and Strengthening:

*Continue to ice as needed

calf stretch , soleus, gastroc - self treatment for shin splints– Calf stretch

  • Hang your heel off the edge of a step, hold for 30 seconds
  • Do not push into knee pain – you should just feel a calf stretch

– Quads stretch

  • Hold for 30 seconds
  • As pain allows

hamstrinhamstirng stretch, knee pain rehab stretch– Hamstring stretch

  • Hold for 30 seconds
  • A little pain is OK, no more

Single leg Squat, hip stability and strengthSingle leg squats

  • Quality, not quantity here – control it
  • 3 sets, 10 8 reps
  • Hold onto a pole/broomstick if needed
  • Don’t push into pain, just go down in a comfortable range

Bridge - increase leg strength, glute activationa dn decrease back pain. physiotherapy exercises for everyone

– Bridges

  • Bend your knees up, place feet on the ground
  • push through your heels and lift your bottom up
  • 3 sets, 12 reps

Progress this to single leg bridges when this is easy and pain-free:

Bridge 1 leg - glute activation, leg strength and core stability. the best exercise for hip stabiltiy, great for runners

  • 3 sets, 12 reps

– Begin walking/jogging program

Want more?

More more detailed information, advice and a step by step rehab guide that makes you your own Physical Therapist, check out our downloadable knee rehab guide HERE

Fore more detailed information, for those of you that enjoy research articles, have a read of this good review of anatomy, biomechanics and management

Persevere with this knee sprain treatment until your knee is 100% and remember, physio treatment can help speed up recovery by reducing swelling, muscle spasm and increasing ROM.

If you have any questions, make use of the comments section and don’t forget to like and share!