Can You Fully Recover From an LCL Tear?

Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) tears can be a painful and debilitating injury, but with proper treatment and rehabilitation, most people can make a full recovery. The key factors in determining the recovery timeline are the severity of the tear and whether surgery is required.

Grades of LCL Tears

LCL tears are classified into three grades based on the extent of the injury:

Grade I: The ligament is stretched but not torn. These injuries typically heal within 1-2 weeks with rest and conservative treatment.

Grade II: The ligament is partially torn. Recovery time is usually 3-4 weeks with proper treatment.

Grade III: The ligament is completely torn. These severe injuries often require surgery and can take 6-8 weeks or longer to heal, depending on the complexity of the repair.

Non-Surgical Treatment

For minor LCL tears (Grade I and II), non-surgical treatment is often successful. This typically includes:

Rest and immobilization in a brace for 2-6 weeks
Ice, compression, and elevation to reduce swelling
Anti-inflammatory medications
Physical therapy to restore strength and range of motion

With proper non-surgical treatment, most people can return to their normal activities within 4-8 weeks, depending on the severity of the tear.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is usually only required for complete LCL tears (Grade III) or in cases where the ligament has pulled away from the bone. During surgery, the surgeon will reattach the ligament to the bone using stitches or a metal staple.
After surgery, the knee is immobilized in a brace for 2-6 weeks. Physical therapy is then started to gradually restore strength and range of motion. Most people can return to their normal activities within 6-12 weeks after surgery, but it may take several months to fully recover.
In some cases, the LCL may be torn in combination with other ligaments, such as the ACL or PCL. These complex injuries often require surgery and a longer recovery time.

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With proper treatment and rehabilitation, most people with LCL tears can make a full recovery and return to their normal activities. However, it’s important to follow the treatment plan recommended by your healthcare provider and to be patient during the recovery process.

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