What is a Ligament?
Before we can understand what a torn ligament is, we should first define a ligament. Ligament, by definition, refers to a group of tough, fibrous, stretchy and dense connective tissue including attenuated collagenous fiber. Ligament elasticity is arranged in a crossing pattern that prevents the joint from being loose.
Ligaments are what connects one bone to the other bone in the body forming a joint. These ligaments join the bones and allows a person to walk without falling or tumbling over. It is different from what a tendon does, it connects bones to muscles. Ligaments limit the movement of a certain joint and sometimes prevents mobility altogether.
The ligaments in the joints do the strengthening in the articular capsule and stabilizes the joint. It also controls a range of and prevents dislocation and other causes of injury. Ligaments have the characteristic of being viscoelastic, it means that a ligament slowly lengthen during tension and returns to their original structure when the tension is gone. However, returning to their original structure becomes impossible if it is stretched more than a specific point for long extended period of time.
What is a Torn Ligament?
Tears or strains in a ligament occurs if a joint becomes overstretched or is twisted. The most commonly affected area by tears or strains are ankles and knees. To prevent it, individuals, especially athletes, dancers, martial artists, gymnasts or even normal people must perform stretches and other exercises to lengthen and strengthen their ligaments making it more elastic and flexible.
Torn Ligament Symptoms
The symptoms for any kind of ligament injury will be similar, regardless on the extent of damage. Usually, there is a snapping, popping or a cracking sound during the injury, when there is a torn ligament. The usual symptoms include swelling, bruising accompanied with severe pain and pressure on the joint. There is also instability—a feeling that the knee is locking or is about to break down. Movement is limited or totally absent in cases of a torn ligament. Standing is also difficult for those with a torn ligament, in which cases it can’t bear a full weight. Also, physical examination reveals that there is a dent on areas where the torn ligament is present
Torn Ligament at Various Places
Torn Ligament in Knee
Mainly anterior and posterior cruciate ligament injury cause torn ligament at knee. The most common cause for the anterior part is a stretch or tear or both by a sudden and twisting motion while the posterior injury is most often caused by a direct impact on the site such as a football tackle or motor vehicle accidents.
Torn Ligament in Shoulder
Glenoid labrum tear cause Torn Ligament in shoulder. The injury to the tissue rim that surrounds the shoulder socket occurs from a repeated shoulder motion or from an acute trauma. Athletes that throw or weightlifter often experience gleniod labium tears due to repetitive motion of the shoulders.
Examples of injuries that could lead to trauma include:
- A direct shoulder blow
- A sudden pull when initiating on lifting a heavy object
- A violent reach over the head when trying to prevent a fall or slide
- Falling over on an extended arm
Torn Ligament in Ankle
Torn ligament in ankle caused by an unexpected joint twist. It can be a tear, stretch, or a complete rupture of the ligaments that join the bones of the ankle.
Torn Ligament in Wrist
Wrist injuries are becoming more common and becomes an annoyance given on how reliant we are on our wrists and hands. During a fall, the reflex is that individuals tend to use their hands to support or break a fall. This makes the wrist twisted or torque and this is commonly cauled as a wrist sprain.
Diagnosing a Torn Ligament
Thorough patient history will be taken, consisting of
- Asking symptoms and what had happened, described in full detail.
- Physical examination is done to examine the signs of a torn ligament, this also includes performing movements such as squatting, hopping or simply stepping. The examiner may also test for injury by flexing and bending the injured area. Also, the examiner feels for fluid in the joints by gently pressing over the kneecap (for knee injuries) if there isn’t much evidence of swelling.
- Other tests may also be done to confirm the diagnosis of torn ligament. It includes MRI, ultrasound or X-ray. These tests help detect complicated or more severe injuries.
Torn Ligament Treatment
Treatment of torn ligament that will be received is dependent on the extent and kind of damage attained.
Follow the RICE method; Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate. Rest the injured area for the first couple of days, for about one to three days then gradually introduce movement as able. Remember not to push yourself too hard, but don’t immobilize it completely that it loses its tone. Ice application is an important aspect of the care. It reduces the swelling and bruising. However, do not directly apply ice to the skin because it causes real damage. In ice application, cold compress is used, it can either be an ice bag or frozen packs wrapped in a towel. To put pressure on the injured area, compress the joint by putting bandage to support it. It can also help decrease the swelling. Lastly, elevate the affected area above the level of the heart and keep it well supported.
During the first three days, DO NOT DO HARM (Heat, Alcohol, Running, Massage). These methods add much damage to the injury. Heat involves using hot pack or even taking a hot bath. Remember not to drink alcohol because it can increase bleeding tendency and swelling in the injured area. Do not run or do any form of exercises, pushing yourself too hard does not help in the recovery. Massage doesn’t always do well. In a torn ligament, massaging the injured area can cause more bleeding or swelling. Crutches or braces may be used to immobilize the affected area.
Painkillers, usually Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can be used to treat mild to moderate pain. Although doctors may prescribe a stronger form of painkillers if necessary, in cases of severe pain. Anti-inflammatory and in combination with analgesics are more common to relieve swelling and inflammation accompanied by the pain.
During more severe or complex injury, individuals may be referred to a physiotherapist—health care professional that specializes in the movement and mobility. In addition, even without referral, an individual can also choose to visit a private physiotherapist to develop an individualized program especially for the injured area. Rehabilitation exercises gradually strengthens the injures area as well as stretching the muscles for better improvement. Different kinds of techniques are used to speed up the healing process. Braces can also be used occasionally during rehabilitation if the injury is severe.
Surgery for Torn Ligament
In some cases, surgery of torn ligament is needed to repair the injury. This is likely if:
- the lateral collateral ligament is ruptured
- the anterior cruciate ligament is damaged and an individual is athletic, or if the medial collateral ligament is damaged or a cartilage is torn—reconstruction operation may be needed. This involves taking a tendon graft to replace the ligament that was damaged
- the damaged ligament or tissue is more than one
- the patellar tendon has been torn
Natural Treatment for Torn Ligament
Natural treatments for damaged ligaments are also possible. These involve herbs as a great alternative, herbs are safe and gentle on the body. Herbs are also beneficial for the overall well-being of an individual. Glucosamine sulphate and Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil’s Claw) contains powerful components that help promote health in joint and cartilage. Furthermore, Boswellia serata promotes muscle and joint comfort.
Torn Ligament Prevention
There are certain safety measures that can be done to reduce the risk of damage to the ligaments:
Regular exercise to maintain a certain fitness level. The muscles in the body will be generally stronger and will be able to support weight in the joints. So it is good to be active and exercise and it is better if it is in a gradually increasing intensity.
If an individual will engage in sports or rigorous exercise, a warm up exercise is advisable. It increases blood flow to the muscles and reduces the chances of taking damage or injury. Cool down is also necessary after the sport or rigorous exercise. However, the benefit of stretching, before or after exercise is still to be proved.
Torn Ligament Pictures
Picture 1- Torn Ligament Anatomy
Picture 2 – Swelling of torn ligament at ankle
Picture 3 – support for torn ligament