On average, it takes six weeks for a MCL injury to heal. The initial treatment for most grade 1, 2 or 3 MCL tears focuses on reducing the pain and inflammation in the knee while immobilizing the knee to keep it stabilized. This includes:
The cast or brace may be designed so that you cannot bend your knee at all. If this is the case, you will need to modify your behavior so that you can avoid having to squat, kneel down or bend over. You should try to keep your leg elevated even if you are sitting in a chair, to reduce blood flow to the knee.
Once the pain and swelling subside, you will begin rehabilitation, which will include exercises to restore strength and normal range of motion to your knee. If your knee feels sore while you are doing these exercises, you should proceed slowly to prevent further irritation.
If the torn ligament does not heal sufficiently, you may experience instability in the joint, and you will be more susceptible to re-injury. The MCL usually responds very well to non-surgical treatment, although surgery may be required in rare cases. Depending on the severity of the injury, a period of rest, bracing and physical therapy usually is sufficient to heal the tear.
Once the MCL has healed fully, you should have a minimum of long-term effects, providing there was no other damage to the knee.
Recovery times differ depending on the severity of the injury:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.