A ligament is a strong, elastic tissue found throughout your body that connect bones to other bones and helps facilitate movement. They are made to be able to stretch as you bend your joints (e.g., your knee, ankle, or elbow). Normally, the ligament will bend and then go back to its normal position once you’ve straightened out the joint. In certain cases, though, the ligament will be extended too far and will result in an injury that ranges from mild to a full tear.
Ligament tears occur mostly in the knee and ankle joints, though it can happen to any joint in the body. They are often the result of falling on the joint at an awkward angle, walking on an uneven surface, or twisting it too far. People that regularly participate in athletic activities involving heavy use of the feet and legs such as soccer, basketball, or football are at an increased risk of sustaining a torn ligament due to the physical demands of sports.
Symptoms and Treatments
There are three grades of ligament tears.
Grade 1 causes minimal tenderness and swelling. There is only a small amount of tearing damage done to the fibers of the ligament. It may be a little painful to put your full weight on the affected joint.
Grade 2 has a moderate amount of swelling and tenderness. There is some tearing of ligament fibers, though it is not the entire ligament. It will probably be too painful to walk on the affected side of the body without some kind of assistance.
Grade 3 comes with severe swelling and tenderness. The ligament is completely torn. Walking on the affected joint will be completely impossible.
Once an orthopaedic specialist has determined the severity of the ligament tear, a treatment plan will be put in place. For grade 1, at-home care is generally enough to heal the tear. This will include not putting too much strain on the ligament, icing it periodically, anti-inflammatory painkillers, elevating the injured joint, and gentle stretching as needed.
With grade 2, the above options will most likely be utilized as well as bracing the affected joint area and light physical therapy. The recovery time will be longer than grade 1, typically four to eight weeks.
For a grade 3, surgery is often necessary. The two surgical options are arthroscopy (a look into the joint to address if there are any loose fragments of bone or cartilage) and reconstruction (an orthopaedic surgeon will repair the torn ligament by stitching it back together in place). After surgery, immobilization is used as well as eventual physical therapy.
No matter the severity of the ligament tear you think you have, it is important to meet with a qualified orthopaedic doctor to get a definitive answer as to the true severity of the tear. You’ll want to be able to start the appropriate treatment as soon as possible. At Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine, we’re proud to offer our patients the best orthopaedic specialists and surgeons in the area. We take the time to sit down with our patients to find out exactly what is going on and come up with a treatment plan together.
If you’re experiencing pain that may be due to a torn ligament, please give us a call today at 904-825-0540 or request an appointment online.