Ligaments are small band of flexible tissues and tough fibers which connect the body to the bones. A relatively common condition among athletes (engaged in contact sports like football and hockey), ligament injuries occur when the joints are stressed beyond their normal range of motion. Though ligament injuries can occur in any joint, the knee and ankle ligaments are the most commonly affected areas. Common symptoms include severe pain, swelling and bruising. Generally, most ligament injuries may take about 4-12 weeks of rehabilitation. However, this time period would vary based on the location and severity of the injury. Leading multispecialty healthcare centers in Brooklyn, NYC offer effective treatment to relieve the pain and help patients regain mobility, balance, and strength.
Twisting or clumsy landing and stretching of the joint beyond a normal range of motion are the common causes of sprains or damage to the tissues that make up the ligament. Tendons that are located around a joint are at the full-stretch and can tear away from the bone. The injury can be mild, moderate or severe. There are three grades of ligament injuries. The first one involves a mild tear, causing joint swelling and severe pain. The second grade is a moderate or partial ligament tear involving swelling and bruising. In the third grade or severe tear (also called ruptured ligament), the ligament gets completely torn.
Common symptoms associated with the condition include –
- Sudden onset of excruciating pain
- Severe swelling within 24 hours of the injury
- Joint instability
- Inability to put weight on the joint without pain, or any weight at all
- Inability to move the affected joint
- Difficulty in walking or running
- A loud pop or snap during the injury
- A feeling of looseness in the joint
In sports activities, sprains occur due to factors such as poor conditioning, muscle fatigue, lack of proper warm up, slips or falls on slippery or uneven surfaces, and poor equipment, including footwear.
Types of Ligament Injuries
- ACL (Anterior cruciate ligament) injury – A common sports injury, ACL ligament crosses from the back of the femur to the front of the tibia in the middle of the knee.
- MCL (Medial collateral ligament) injury – MCL injury affects the thigh bone to the shin bone on the inside of the knee.
- AC (Acromioclavicular) joint injury – Also referred to as “shoulder separation”, this injury occurs when the ligaments supporting the acromioclavicular joint gets overstretched.
- Ankle sprains – Ankle sprains occur when one or more ligaments on the outer side of the ankle get stretched or torn.
- Plantar fasciitis – Also called heel pain, plantar fasciitis arises due to activities that place a lot of stress on the heels like dance aerobics, ballet or long-distance running.
- PCL (Posterior cruciate ligament) injury – Regarded as a rare type of injury, PCL links the thigh bone to the shin bone in the knee.
- LCL (Lateral collateral ligament) injury – LCL affects the thigh bone to the fibula, (the smaller bone of the lower leg on the outer side of the knee).
Ligament Injury Treatment
Diagnosis of ligament injuries starts with a physical examination to evaluate how the particular type of injury has affected your range of motion. Imaging tests like X-rays and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be conducted to check whether the patient has suffered a fracture. Reliable pain management and rehabilitation centers in Brooklyn, NYC offer treatment for ligament injuries using non-invasive modalities such as physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, TENS, pain medications, NSAIDs, Ice and heat application, and Foot Levelers Orthotics.
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation – Physical therapy and rehabilitation can reduce stress on the joint and return it to its pre-injury state. Therapeutic exercise programs such as stretching, strengthening and isometric exercises reduce joint inflammation and help in speedy healing.
- Chiropractic care – Treatment by skilled chiropractors can help restore the normal alignment of the joints, improve flexibility, and reduce inflammation.
- Pain injections – Cortisone injections are administered to ease pain.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – Low-voltage electric stimulation that interacts with the sensory nervous system can relieve pain.
- Ice and heat application – Ice packs help lower inflammation while heat application promotes muscle relaxation.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin may be used to alleviate pain and swelling.
- Foot Levelers Orthotics – Custom orthotic soles (that can be slipped into any closed footwear) improve strength, provide proper balance to the feet, and alleviate pain.
Surgery will be recommended for severe ligament injuries or joint fractures.
Recovery time for ligament injuries may vary from person to person depending on the type of injury. Taking proper rest and avoiding activities that may stress the injured area is crucial for recovery. Wrapping the injured area with a bandage or using a hinged brace is a good way to provide consistent compression to the injured area and stabilize the joint.