Knee Pain in the Medial Collateral Ligament When Running

If you are an avid runner, you may be well acquainted with annoying aches and pains. However, pain in the medial collateral ligament -- the thick band that supports the inside of the knee and attaches the femur and tibia -- may be indicative of a serious injury. Because pain in the medial collateral ligament, or MCL, may be linked to other injured tissues, consult your doctor at the first sign of injury.

Pain on the inside of the knee when running may be a serious injury. Credit: comzeal/iStock/Getty Images

Minor Injuries

The main job of the MCL is to keep the knee joint stable when forces are applied to the outer side of the knee. When the impact or force is too much, the MCL can become overstretched. Tears to the ligamentous fibres can also occur, which might cause pain when running. In the case of a grade 1 sprain, the area over the ligament might be tender, but usually is not accompanied by swelling. Treat the area with the RICE method -- rest, ice, compression and elevation -- until symptoms subside.

Grade 2 Sprains

If you experience considerable pain when running accompanied by inflammation around the inside of the knee, you may have a grade 2 sprain of the MCL. After applying the RICE treatment, consult with your physician for a professional assessment of the injury. You may require additional physical therapy and a longer period of downtime from activity.

Grade 3 Tears

The most serious injury to the medial collateral ligament is classified as a grade 3 tear and involves a total rupture of the ligament. In some cases the pain may not be as acute as a less severe injury, however, the resulting instability of the knee joint will make it difficult to walk or stand without the knee feeling wobbly. This type of injury demands immediate attention and will most likely require surgery. Rehabilitation from MCL surgery may take up to six months for full recovery.


Weak muscles are the leading cause of knee injuries, therefore the best thing you can do for your knees is strengthen the surrounding muscles. Target your quadriceps and hamstrings when strength training. Add stability and balance exercises, such as standing on a bosu board or standing on one foot unsupported. Flexibility is also key for injury prevention. Make sure your post run workouts include flexibility exercises that adequately stretch the muscles above and below your knee joints.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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