Ligaments are collections of dense connective tissues that form linkages between bones. Their primary job is to provide effective support to the joints. In addition, they also allow for a normal range of motion within a joint while preventing any unwanted movement which would make that joint unstable. In fact, they play a key role in allowing you to lower, lift or even rotate your arms and legs.
This function calls for immense mechanical tensile strength in the ligaments. Ligaments are made up of the protein-collagen. It is the organisation of these collagen fibres that lends tensile strength to the ligament. Ligament damage therefore lends itself to a slow recovery with impacts on the muscles having to pick up the slack.
Ligaments play another critical role that we don’t normally think about. They provide what is known as the brain proprioceptive input. What does that mean? Well, it simply means, you get to know which position your joints are in, without actually having to look.
This helps you perform all the complex, coordinated activities that are required in sport. For example, in Tennis, it helps you understand where your hand currently is and calculate how much should your back swing be in order to hit that winner in a Tennis match.
What is a Ligament Sprain?
Now, since ligaments play such an important role in our lives, it important that we understand a little more about ligament damage and the signs we need to look for.
Ligament damage or sprain occurs when the tissues that comprises the ligament tear or stretch beyond a limit. While these tissues that connect bones are quite tough, they can, sometimes get damaged due to excessive stress or injury. A ligament sprain might involve a single or sometimes even multiple ligaments.
As per a study, Australia has the highest reported rates of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the world. This makes it all the more crucial for you to understand the nature of the injury and how to avoid it.
Common Causes of Ligament Damage
Typically, a ligament sprain results from a sudden twisting or a direct injury to the joint while playing sports or other physical activities. It can also be caused by accidents or falls.
Ligament Injury: Risk Factors to Look Out For
There are some factors that up the risk of ligament damage, such as:
- Muscle fatigue (tiredness)
- Overuse of certain muscles
- A sudden increase in the amount or intensity of sports/ fitness training
- Use of ill-fitting shoes or even ones that aren’t suited for a particular activity
- Excessive body weight
- Incorrect usage of sports equipment
Ligament Sprain – Signs and Symptoms
Let’s now take a look at some of the common symptoms of ligament damage. Being aware of these will help you identify the injury and take appropriate action.
- You hear/ feel a snap or pop when the sprain occurs.
- The joint gives way while you are performing the activity – this happens if a lower arm or leg joint is affected.
- There is a sudden swelling or pain in the joint. The pain is worse if you touch that affected area.
- There is bruising around the injured area.
- It will feel warm to the touch.
- You have trouble moving the joint.
Levels of Sprain
It’s important to remember that there are different levels of ligament sprain – depending on the severity and extent of injury. This will have a direct bearing on the treatment / rehabilitation plan needed to recover from the injury.
Grade 1 Sprain
A few collagen fibres are damaged, and this produces a local inflammatory response. There is a pain in the affected limb as well.
Grade 2 Sprain
A larger number of collagen fibres are damaged, which, in turn, produces a greater inflammatory response; this is characterised by swelling & intense pain in the joint.
Grade 3 Sprain
The collagen fibres are damaged to such an extent that the ligament gets completely ruptured; this results in swelling, intense pain, and marked joint instability. In most instances, surgery is required to restore joint stability
Treatment of Ligament Damage
Now let’s look at the most important part – the treatment and recovery. When you have a ligament injury, it’s important to get advice from a trained and competent medical professional.
The treatment plan will depend on a number of factors:
- Which ligament has been injured.
- Whether more than one ligament has been affected.
- The severity of the injury.
- When the injury occurred.
Based on the above four factors, you may need the following to help in your recovery journey:
You will need a splint, an elastic bandage, a cast or a brace to protect that joint and limit your movement. If the ligament damage is in your leg, you may have to use crutches to help reduce the pain as you move around.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce or eliminate the pain. It is important that you do not wait till the pain is too severe before you take the medication. NSAIDs can help reduce fever or pain. These are also available over-the-counter, but it’s best to consult a doctor before taking any medication.
This is a very important aspect of the treatment plan for a ligament injury. A physical therapist will teach you different exercises that will help improve strength and movement and decrease pain.
If you need information or guidance regarding ligament injury recovery, contact our expert chiropractor. We at Paramount Health have helped hundreds of people recover from various injuries and get back to their normal lives.
Prevention of Ligament Damage
Regular exercising can help strengthen your muscles & prevent ligament injuries. Find out how you can minimise the chances of a ligament injury by talking to out experts here.
If you are recovering from an injury, before you resume your regular sports training or exercise, you should:
- Check with your sports medicine expert about the duration required for the ligament to heal. Do not indulge in any form of physical activity until your doctor gives you the go-ahead or you may worsen the damage.
- Always include a dynamic stretching and warm-up routine in your regular sport, exercise or physical activity.
- Increase the duration and intensity of your training or exercise very slowly.
- Make sure you use shoes with the right fit and ones that are suited for that particular activity. If necessary, use braces, knee and elbow pads and ankle supports.
When it comes to ligament damage, prevention is always better than cure. Whether you are a sportsperson, an office worker, or a housewife, its absolutely important to recognise the signs of a ligament injury and understand how to avoid it. This will ensure that you are able to go about your normal life without any major disruptions.