Ouch! Treat a ligament tear with these expert tips

Published on: 4 March 2022, 12:00 pm IST

A torn ligament can be painful and trouble you for a long time. Timely diagnosis and treatment is the key to recovery.

ligament tear pain
Don't suffer in pain, take the right action. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Ligaments are thick, elastic, fibrous tissue bands that connect bones at joints. They link bones, support joints, and control movement. Body parts such as the ankle, elbow, shoulders, wrist, knee joints are surrounded by ligaments. These ligaments are prone to an injury known as sprains or ligament tears, which occur when a joint is stressed beyond its usual range of motion. And it’s important that you give ample care to a ligament tear to recover well.

Ligament tears are common, especially in the case of athletes or sportspersons while performing in their respective fields. Knee and ankle ligaments are the most affected since they are continually in use and under stress as they constantly bear weight. If you an entirely torn ligament, it will need to be repaired surgically.

ligament tear
Excess physical activity can lead to a ligament tear. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

While a partial tear ligament may feel like a significant strain, a complete rip can feel like a fractured bone. Torn ligaments are prevalent in sports and at work, but they can also occur due to accidents.

Ligament tear symptoms to look out for

1. Crackling sound:

At the time of injury, there might be a slight crackling or popping sound indicating a tear in the ligament.

2. Pain and swelling:

A ligament tear may be extremely painful and tender to the touch. One may even notice slight swelling or bruising in the affected area.

3. Limited mobility:

Post a ligament injury, the joint’s capacity to move freely may become restricted. It may be difficult to bear weight if the injury is in the elbow and walk around if it has occurred in the ankle bone or knee bone.

Also Read: Study suggests women are 3 to 6 times more prone to knee injuries

ligament tear
Use a brace if the pain is unmanageable. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to diagnose a torn ligament?

It is advised to seek a doctor’s assistance immediately once any discomfort or visible injury symptoms are observed. An orthopedic doctor is best suited for this diagnosis and can understand the impact of the injury upon a physical check-up. Additionally, one may also be asked to attempt certain mild activities such as bending, flexing, hopping, squatting to ascertain the extent of the injury. An imaging test like X-ray, MRI, or Ultrasound can confirm the diagnosis.

Frequent ligament injuries

Ankle and knee ligaments are two of the most commonly injured ligaments. While the ligaments that connect the ankle bones are widely wounded due to a joint twist, a torn knee ligament may be caused by a sudden twisting motion or a direct hit on the knee due to an accident.

The shoulder and wrist are other commonly injured ligaments. Motions of the shoulders, such as throwing a ball or weightlifting, are common causes of shoulder ligaments. The most common cause of a ligament tear in the wrist is a twisted wrist, which occurs when the reflex extends out the hand to support a fall.

Also Read: These 6 yoga stretches will prevent workout injuries by strengthening your muscles

How to treat a ligament tear?

* First Aid:

Within the first 72 hours, wear a brace for added support or a bandage to reduce swelling, elevate the injury, and relax and remain off your feet. Crutches may be recommended for some patients to help keep weight off an injured knee.

* Medications:

To help reduce swelling and pain, doctors may prescribe over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Steroid injections may be prescribed for the affected area if severe pain persists.

* Surgery:

In case of severe injuries, surgery to repair the torn ligament may be prescribed. During this process, the damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is replaced with tissue to create a new ligament in its place after a knee injury such as an ACL rupture.

* Physical therapy:

After the injury has healed, the doctor might recommend physical therapy to restore physical routine. A therapist would recommend a couple of sessions a week with mild exercises to practice at home.

physiotherapy
Physiotherapy can be helpful in case of a ligament tear. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Exercise during ligament tear

To avoid a torn ligament injury, one can do a few things. Most importantly, stretch and practice muscle-strengthening activities. Muscles that aren’t strong will overcompensate, resulting in tears. Strengthening your muscles allows them to act as shock absorbers. Before starting a workout, do some warm-up and cool-down activities. Exercise boosts blood flow to the muscles, which reduces the risk of injury.

Dr Veerendra Mudnoor Dr Veerendra Mudnoor

Dr Veerendra Mudnoor, Orthopaedics and Joint Replacement Surgeon, Apollo Spectra Hospital Kondapur, Hyderabad

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