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Treating Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Problems

Pre-op checklist

  • Stop taking aspirin and other medicines as advised by your doctor 7 days before surgery.

  • Arrange to get properly sized crutches to use during recovery.

  • Don’t eat or drink 10 to 12 hours before surgery (or advised by your doctor).

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery.

There are 2 options for treating an MCL injury: nonsurgical and surgical. Nonsurgical treatment is used much more often. With either option, rehabilitation will be part of your treatment.

Nonsurgical treatment

This treatment starts with rest, ice, and elevation. This relieves pain and swelling. In the next stage, you begin exercises designed to increase your knee’s range of motion, strength, and flexibility. You may need a brace for weeks after your injury. Using crutches or a brace rests your joint, helping it to heal.

Cutaway view of knee showing the medial collateral ligament
Your doctor may secure the ligament to the bone with screws.

Cutaway view of knee showing the medial collateral ligament
Your doctor may stitch or staple your ligament together.


Surgery is seldom used to repair an MCL injury, however, sometimes it is advised, especially if another part of your knee is damaged. Open surgery is used to screw or stitch the MCL back into place. If repair of the original MCL is not possible, an MCL graft may be used. Depending on their location, other knee injuries may be repaired using arthroscopy. With arthroscopy, a tiny camera lets your doctor see inside the joint. Tools inserted through small incisions are used to repair the joint.

After surgery

Right after surgery, you’ll spend a few hours in a recovery unit. Your knee will be bandaged, ice will be applied,  and your leg elevated. Depending on the surgery performed, physical therapy may begin shortly after. A brace and crutches are typically used after surgery. You may have restrictions on weight bearing and activity during your healing process.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph, Thomas N., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Last Review Date: 9/8/2015
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