Definition of a sprain in the knee

The sprain, also called in medical terminology "Distortion" is classified under the sports injury category. It is an injury to the soft tissues of the knee joint, such as ligaments, muscles, and joint capsules. More precisely, the knee joint is severely overstretched or twisted, resulting in a sprain. The respective structures can be damaged to different degrees depending on the course of the accident.
The knee joint is a typical localization for a sprain in terms of the whole body.


A sprain occurs most often during sporting activities; team sports in particular often lead to sprain injuries.
Since the knee joint is a ligament-secured joint, it is obvious that these structures are most likely to be damaged by overstretching as well as external stress and violence.
A sprain can also arise due to jerky movements and rapid changes of direction, each with short-term overstretching.
The extent of the injury itself varies, depending on the severity of the overstretching. As a rule, only the ligaments and muscles are affected at first, in severe cases the joint capsule can also be affected or the soft tissue structures may even tear.

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Diagnosis of the sprain

If a knee sprain is suspected, those affected should consult a doctor to be on the safe side. The diagnosis is based on the classic symptoms such as pain, swelling and bruising and a precise anamnesis of the course of the accident.
A sprain can thus be diagnosed relatively quickly without the need for an apparatus-based diagnosis in the form of X-rays, MRI or CT.
However, it is important that the functionality or movement of the knee joint is maintained, albeit only to a reduced extent due to the pain and swelling. Otherwise one can possibly rule out more serious injuries through further diagnostics.

Symptoms of a sprain in the knee

The classic symptoms of a knee sprain are pain, swelling, and bruising.
The swelling is caused by a sprain due to tissue infiltration or small bruises. The bruises, in turn, are caused by the rupture of vessels in the knee joint area.
Typically, the sprain is associated with restricted mobility due to the swelling and pain.
This is relatively moderate compared to more serious injuries to the knee and still allows a certain load capacity and mobility in the knee joint.
However, the functionality should be retained, even if to a limited extent. As long as this is the case, you can still assume a sprain, otherwise a possible more serious injury with bony involvement must be clarified.
The pain is simply based on an irritation of the soft tissue structures supplied with nerves and the resulting swelling in the form of stretching / tension pain.
In the long term, a knee sprain can lead to ligament instability. This is associated with an increased risk of further knee injuries with involvement of the soft tissue. The knee becomes more vulnerable and less resistant to overstretching or enormous external forces. In the case of a one-off sprain, however, such knee instabilities are less of a concern.

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It is therefore important to seek recovery relatively quickly after a sprain by protecting the knee joint and correct treatment.

Find out more about: Acute knee pain - that may be behind it

Appointment with a knee specialist?

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Who am I?
My name is dr. Nicolas Gumpert. I am a specialist in orthopedics and the founder of .
Various television programs and print media report regularly about my work. On HR television you can see me every 6 weeks live on "Hallo Hessen".
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The knee joint is one of the joints with the greatest stress.

Therefore, the treatment of the knee joint (e.g. meniscus tear, cartilage damage, cruciate ligament damage, runner's knee, etc.) requires a lot of experience.
I treat a wide variety of knee diseases in a conservative way.
The aim of any treatment is treatment without surgery.

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Which therapy achieves the best results in the long term can only be determined after looking at all of the information (Examination, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, etc.) be assessed.

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Unfortunately, it is currently only possible to make an appointment with private health insurers. I hope for your understanding!
Further information about myself can be found at Dr. Nicolas Gumpert

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Therapy for a sprain

The first measures to be taken should be based on the "PECH rule".
"P" stands for break and means that the knee joint must be spared immediately and no further stress should be applied.
Next, it is important to cool the knee joint - according to the PECH rule "E" for ice. The cold leads to a vascular contraction, i.e. a contraction of the vessels, so that less fluid or blood escapes into the surrounding tissue and thus the swelling, bruising and inflammatory reactions are kept within limits. The cooling can be realized with the help of cooling pads, cold envelopes or ice spray. The only important thing is that there is no direct skin contact with the ice, as otherwise local symptoms of frostbite can occur.
After the PECH rule, the "C" follows, which stands for compression. This means that an elastic bandage with a compressive effect should be applied. This bandage pursues the same goal as the ice, namely to narrow the blood vessels. Simultaneous cooling and compression is particularly effective.
Ultimately, the affected knee joint must be elevated - "H" for elevation. The knee joint should be above heart level. For this, it is suitable to put a pillow in the back of the knee in a lying position or to ask a second person to hold up their leg in an acute situation. This also tries to reduce the swelling of the knee joint.
The PECH rule can be applied until there is no symptom. In the further course of therapy, it is very important to protect the affected knee joint.However, this does not mean that no exposure is possible at all. Everyday, moderate strain on the knee joint is okay, but sport should definitely be avoided. As soon as the opportunity arises, elevating the knee joint is beneficial for the healing process. A bandage to stabilize the joints can also aid healing.
In addition to the PECH rule, anti-inflammatory and decongestant ointments can also be used. Depending on the intensity of the pain, those affected can also take pain killers. Surgery is not necessary for a simple sprain. Surgical treatment should only be discussed in the case of severe sprains that cause disproportionately long symptoms and are associated with instability and loss of function.

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Home remedies to use for a sprain

The good old home remedies can also help with a sprain. These aim to counteract the swelling, pain and bruising of the sprained knee. As is recommended with the PECH rule, cooling a sprain is very important. A simple home remedy is particularly suitable for this: the quark wrap. With the help of a linen cloth, the quark can be wrapped around the knee and thus ensures a pleasant coolness very quickly. Read our article about this "Quark wrap".
A porridge made from onions and salt in combination with ice can produce a similar effect. Particularly popular home remedies are various oils that you can use to soak a linen towel and then wrap it around your knee. Typical substances that are processed into oils or ointments here are lavender, chamomile, comfrey root, thyme herb, arnica flowers, St. John's wort and Retterspitz.
Most of them have anti-inflammatory, decongestant and analgesic effects. Applying clay or healing earth can be helpful against the swelling of a sprain. Those affected also report that a knee wrap filled with parsley and whipped egg whites can relieve the symptoms of a sprain.
The various ingredients are often available over-the-counter in pharmacies, so that everyone can make their own oils. Home remedies can be used in addition to the PECH rule with a clear conscience. However, if the symptoms do not go away, it is important to consult a doctor.


Homeopathy as an alternative treatment approach and is also suitable for the therapy of a sprain. Various drugs have proven their worth in the treatment of a sprain and are therefore increasingly in demand. The best known remedy is "Arnica". In the case of a sprain, arnica counteracts the classic symptoms such as pain, swelling and bruising.
Another medicine from the homeopathic field is "Bryonia". This is used for the pain associated with any soft tissue injury. The herb extract "Ruta" is also indicated for a sprain. A last homeopathic medicine worth mentioning is the "Rhus toxicodendron", which also provides relief from the symptoms of a sprain. In addition to the drugs mentioned so far, there are many more. If you are interested or need treatment, those affected should seek advice from a homeopath.
The dosage form of the respective drugs varies: both ointments and tinctures or globules are conceivable and can be prescribed depending on your preference.

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Knee brace

A bandage is an elastic bandage to stabilize the knee joint.
In connection with a sprain, the bandage can be used for prophylactic as well as therapeutic reasons.
Many athletes therefore often wear a knee brace as a preventive measure, as this additionally stabilizes the joint.
Wearing a bandage can also be indicated as a therapeutic measure. The tight-fitting bandage has a compressing and stabilizing function, so that the healing process is promoted after a sprain.
Depending on how the bandage is processed, it can have a tissue-massaging effect, which in turn prevents tension or hardening.
Wearing the bandage beyond recovery time may also be necessary if the sprain is more severe.
Then stabilization of the knee joint is very important, as full function and resilience is only guaranteed after 3 months.

Further information is available under our topic: Knee brace

Duration of the healing process

How long it takes for a knee sprain to heal varies from person to person. Various factors influence the personal course of genesis. These include, on the one hand, the severity of the sprain and, on the other hand, the personal constitution, such as age and characteristics of the musculoskeletal apparatus in the lower extremity. In addition, the time at which therapy begins plays an important role. The earlier the therapy was started, the better the chances of recovery and the more likely it is to be free of symptoms. In general, the sprain is an injury with a good prognosis, which usually only causes symptoms for several days to a maximum of 2 weeks.
During the healing process, it is extremely important to take care of the knee joint and not to put full weight on it immediately after the 2 weeks have elapsed.
If the symptoms do not improve after 2 weeks despite therapeutic measures, it is advisable to consult a doctor again to clarify serious injuries or to initiate further treatment steps.

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