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"How can you tell the difference between a strain and torn knee ligaments?"


Felt a weird pop in my knee when I was running playing a softball game. Its pretty sore but I don't have a lot of trouble walking. Is it just a strain or could I have torn something and not know it? Would you still be able to walk with a torn ligament in your knee?


It is often difficult to tell the difference between a severe strain and a torn knee ligament without a proper physical exam and imaging. While most patients with a strained or torn ligament will have increased pain with ambulation, not all patients are prevented from walking by this injury. Increased pain may not become apparent until that particular ligament is forcefully strained by more intense physical activity such as running or pivoting on that knee.

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If you are at all concerned about your knee, you should seek out the help of your primary care physician or make an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon. There are certain physical exam maneuvers that are fairly specific for torn knee ligaments which your doctor can perform. If there is still doubt about the diagnosis, you may be referred to get an MRI scan of the knee, which is the best way to visualize the ligaments and other soft tissues in that joint. Depending on the type of injury, treatment will vary. For a strained ligament, you may get by with conservative management such as elevation and anti-inflammatory medication. For a torn ligament, physical therapy and/or surgical correction may be necessary.

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