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Physical Therapy for MCL Sprain – Information, Exercises, and More

Something is up with your knee.

You can hardly straighten it and it hurts to even put pressure on it, let alone try to walk.

You may be suffering from a painful MCL sprain. 

We cover the details of all things MCL, including how physical therapy for an mcl sprain can help you find relief and get back on your feet.


What Is MCL Sprain?

The MCL, or medial collateral ligament, is the ligament that keeps your tibia (shin bone) in place. 

An MCL sprain can occur when your MCL is stretched or torn and may result in a partial or complete tear of the ligament.

 What Causes MCL Sprain?

MCL sprains may be caused by a variety of things, such as:

  • Direct impact to the outside of your knee
  • Twisting or over-extending your knee
  • Quickly changing directions when you’re walking or running
  • Landing on your knee while it is bent

This type of injury is commonly seen in sports such as football, soccer, and skiing or following a car accident.

MCL Sprain Symptoms

The symptoms of an MCL sprain may include: 

  • Pain or difficulty when you are walking, sitting down, getting up from a chair, or climbing stairs
  • Pain on the inside of your knee
  • Swelling and bruising on the inside of your knee
  • Swelling that spreads throughout your knee injury within 24–48 hours after you are injured
  • Stiffness in your knee
  • Difficulty or pain when you try to bend or straighten your knee
  • A feeling of instability in your knee

MCL Sprain Treatment

There are a number of treatments you may use to help find relief and healing from an MCL sprain, including: 

  • The R.I.C.E. method
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Bracing
  • Physical therapy

R.I.C.E. Method

The R.I.C.E. method is often used to treat injuries such as MCL sprains. The components of the R.I.C.E. method include:

  1. Rest: Stay off of your injured knee to protect it from further injury.
  2. Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area several times each day for 15–20 minutes at a time to help reduce pain and swelling. Wrap ice in a towel or cloth and avoid applying it directly to your skin. Be sure not to apply ice for longer than 20 minutes at a time to prevent frostbite.
  3. Compression: Wrap your injured knee with an elastic bandage to help reduce swelling and provide support.
  4. Elevation: Keep your injured knee elevated above your heart to help reduce swelling.

The RICE method should be applied as soon as possible after the injury occurs, and may be continued for the first 24–72 hours. If your pain increases or swelling persists for more than two days, consult your doctor or a physical therapist.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

After an MCL sprain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as … 

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)

… are often recommended to help relieve swelling.


Your doctor may recommend a knee brace to help stabilize your knee through the healing process.

Some MCL sprains may heal within a month or so. For more severe injuries, you may need to wear a hinged knee brace and limit the amount of weight you put on your leg. 

MCL Sprain Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?


Physical therapy is generally the preferred treatment for most MCL sprains. Physical therapy for MCL sprain can help … 

  • Lessen your pain
  • Alleviate swelling
  • Restore range of motion and function
  • Strengthen your knee
  • Bring long-term healing 

… to your sprained MCL through specially targeted therapeutic exercise. 

MCL physical therapy focuses on getting any swelling under control and then progresses to improving your knee’s range of motion and quadriceps function. 

Best Physical Therapy Exercises for MCL Sprain

Physical therapy for MCL knee sprain may include the following exercises: 

Hamstring Curls

To do hamstring curls:

  1. Lie on your stomach. 
  2. Use a resistance band or towel to curl your leg backward, towards your buttocks. 
  3. Repeat 10–15 times.

Quad Sets

To do quad sets:

  1. Tighten the muscles on the front of your thigh.
  2. Hold for 5–10 seconds. 
  3. Repeat 10–15 times.

Straight Leg Raises

To do straight leg raises: 

  1. Lie on your back. 
  2. Slowly lift your affected leg up while keeping your knee straight. 
  3. Repeat 10–15 times.


To do bridges: 

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent. 
  • Lift your hips up towards the ceiling. 
  • Hold for 5–10 seconds. 
  • Repeat 10–15 times.

Be sure to consult your physical therapist for a personalized physical therapy protocol for MCL sprain and to learn how to properly do each exercise to avoid further injury.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With MCL Sprain

If you’re suffering from an MCL sprain, physical therapy with In Motion O.C. can help.

We have helped hundreds of patients with MCL sprains find relief and get back on their feet. 

Check out our testimonials to see for yourself.

We are proud to be the #1 physical therapists in the entire country on Yelp — and we are sure we can help you get back to doing the things you love. 

Contact us today to request your free screening.

The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

In Motion O.C.