Physical Therapy for Ligament Injuries
Ligament injuries can occur at any age, but as our bodies get older, the risk for physical injury may increase. Without careful consideration, certain activities can put a strain on your body, causing inflammation and damage. Some of the most common and distressing injuries involve your ligaments: the connective tissues that join your bones together.
What Is a Ligament Injury?
Ligaments are the flexible bands that coordinate muscle movement with your skeleton–ligaments are what allow us to move! When these bands are overstretched or pulled in the wrong direction, they can strain or tear. While a strain will typically heal with some rest and other basic treatments, a tear often requires surgery and more in-depth care. A ligament tear or sprain can happen with almost any kind of rigorous activity, especially if the surrounding muscles are underdeveloped or injured. These parts of the body are the most common sites of ligament injuries:
Ligament Injuries in the Knee: the Unhappy Triad
The “unhappy triad” refers to an injury that involves three major ligaments in the knee. It’s also known as a “blown” knee, and is a combination of these ligament injuries:
- The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
- The medial collateral ligament (MCL)
- The medial meniscus (MMT)
Of these three, ACL injuries are the most common, typically damaged because of side-to-side movements. Even a slightly awkward placement of the foot can put too much stress on the ACL, causing a sprain or a tear.
The knee has two other ligaments outside of the Unhappy Triad: the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). PCL injuries are not common. LCL injuries usually occur with a sharp blow to the outside of the knee, and can be extremely painful.
Ligaments in the Ankles and Elbows
A sprained ankle is a direct result of a ligament injury. Ankle ligaments include the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL), and the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL). Ankle sprains can be extremely painful, and should be evaluated by a doctor and a physical therapist. If the ankle sprain occurred without any known injury, physical therapy is even more important, as the ankle sprain could be due to a loose or previously damaged ligament.
Elbow ligaments include the ulnar collateral ligament, the radial collateral ligament (RCL), and the annular ligament. Elbow sprains can be caused by overuse or injury.
What’s the Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?
While they may sound similar, sprains and strains are completely different.
- Strains: involve tendon or muscle stretching or tearing.
- Sprains: involve ligament stretching or tearing.
Both sprains and strains can be caused by overuse, weakness in the surrounding muscles, lack of flexibility, or sudden injury.
How Can Physical Therapy Help with Ligament Tears and Injuries?
Physical therapy focuses on repairing and strengthening injured ligaments over time. Sometimes physical therapy alone can restore full range of movement and strength. In other cases, physical therapy must be used along with another treatment, such as surgery.
Some therapy modalities can be used only at your treatment sessions. Ultrasound treatment stimulates tissues beneath the surface of your skin, causing areas to heal by growing new cells. Electrical stimulation can decrease pain and relax the area. Your therapist may also use wobble boards and other items to improve your balance and coordination.
With proper treatments, possible surgical repair, and a strengthening regimen using physical therapy, you can regain movement, flexibility, and strength. If you’ve concerned that you may have a ligament injury, call New Heights Physical Therapy today. We’re here to help!
Ligament Injury in Portland OR and Vancouver WA
Seeing Patients in the following Portland and Vancouver areas: