Treatment Orthopedics

LCL Tear

If the torn ligament does not heal sufficiently, you may experience instability in the joint, making it more susceptible to re-injury. Although more-severe injuries often require surgery, lesser damage to the LCL usually responds very well to non-surgical treatment. Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury.

Rehabilitation for an LCL tear consists of:

  • A period of rest
  • Bracing
  • Physical therapy

Once pain and swelling have subsided, you should be able to begin exercises to restore strength and normal range of motion to your knee.

Surgical repair of a torn LCL usually takes about one to two hours but can be longer if there are other injuries to the knee that also require treatment, such as an ACL tear. General anesthesia or a spinal or epidural anesthetic is used. An incision is made on the outside of your knee to gain access the torn ligament. The ligament is re-attached to the bone using screws, sutures or both. The skin is sewn back together using sutures or staples.

It is important to note that an LCL tear rarely occurs in isolation — it usually is in conjunction with other major knee injuries — and therefore rehabilitation depends on the extent of the other damage.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

Recommended reading

A Woman's Aching Knees

Why are women winding up with more knee injuries? Researchers suspect one of the most likely causes is the way women are built. Learn more here.

Take Care of Your Knees

Although collateral ligament injuries can be difficult to avoid, here are several steps you can take to improve the strength and flexibility of your knees.

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