ACL and MCL Tears: What’s the Difference?

ACL and MCL Tears: What’s the Difference?

Knee injuries are some of the most common types of injuries, especially in athletes. Two of the most well-known and dreaded types of injuries are ACL and MCL tears. You’ve probably heard of these two types but might be wondering, what’s the difference?  

soccer player holding his left knee after getting an mcl injury

Where is your ACL and MCL? 

The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament lies in the center of the knee connecting the femur to the tibia. The ACL helps control the back-and-forth motion of your knee.  

The MCL or medial collateral ligament is on the inside of your knee, and it prevents your knee from bending too far inward by controlling the sideways motion. The MCL helps stabilize the knee and allows the knee to rotate to a certain degree. 

running holding knee after getting acl injury

How do ACL and MCL injuries occur? 

An ACL injury can occur by a sudden stop or change in direction. ACL injuries are common in sports such as basketball, soccer, football and tennis because they require quick cutting or pivoting motions that cause the knee to twist too much.  

When an ACL is torn, the person will normally hear a popping sound or feel a popping sensation at time of injury. There will most likely immediately be pain and swelling present directly following the injury. The knee will feel unstable, and walking or weight-bearing may become difficult.  

An MCL injury mostly occurs when the knee sustains direct impact on the side causing it to stretch the ligaments on the side too far and causing a tear. This can also happen in sports such as football, soccer, and basketball. But just like ACL tears, MCL tears can also occur in everyday activity even though they’re less common.  

During an MCL injury, you may feel pain in the inside of the knee or experience bruising or swelling. You may also have stiffness that prevents the knee from bending or straightening completely. Similar to an ACL injury, if you’ve torn your MCL you may have pain or difficulty walking, sitting down or stabilizing your knee. 

Both MCL and ACL injuries can have similar symptoms: pain, swelling, instability, bruising, etc. The easiest differentiator between the two is the ACL will have a popping sound and the MCL will not. However, it is important to note you can sustain both an MCL and ACL injury in some cases.   

runner with mcl injury who needs to go to rehab at kaizo health

Can you walk with a torn ACL and MCL? 

Walking with an ACL and MCL injury will depend on the severity. Both types of injuries are rated on a three-phrase scale. A grade one injury is considered a sprain. Grade two means there is slight tearing in the ligament and grade three means it’s a complete tear and may require surgery.  

Treatment and recovery will be based on the severity of the tear and past injury. Be sure to see a specialist before beginning any type recovery and to see the best course of treatment.  

runner holding left knee pain from mcl and acl injury

How Can a Chiropractor Help with MCL tears? 

MCL recovery is typically known to be a bit easier than ACL. Many ACL tears require surgery and rehabilitation cannot begin until the tear is fixed. For an MCL injury, rest and immobilization are most likely the first course of treatment used to allow the healing progress to begin. 

Once the initial swelling has gone down, you can begin to work with a chiropractor with physical therapy privileges to begin treatments that will help realign the knee, reduce inflammation and scar tissue and rebuild strength with rehabilitative exercises.  

A chiropractor is also great for helping prevent MCL injuries. By working to increase the strength, mobility and flexibility of the knee, the knee will be able to sustain more impact before tearing.  

If you’ve sustained any type of knee injury or are currently experiencing knee pain, check out these awesome knee exercises to avoid knee pain during lower body workouts.  

Get Treated at Kaizo Health    

Our goal at Kaizo Health is to always get you back to feeling 100%. Our doctors provide treatment to help you be pain-free. We also have a dedicated team that will work with you and your insurance. We want to make sure you get the most from your benefits. You should experience relief for as little cost to you as possible. If you are ready to experience relief from the pain, make an appointment to see us now.     

Kaizo Health offers locations in Rockville, MD; Landover, MD; Fort Washington, MD; and Fairfax, VA. Our doctors an evidence-based approach by combining chiropractic care and individualized rehabilitative exercises. We provide the treatment and resources you need to recover your health. We are here to help! If you’d like more information, check out our blog. You can also take our free virtual self-assessment on app here