A ligament strain or strain is the overstretching of ligaments (ligaments). The bands of solid connective tissue have the task of stabilizing joints and limiting the range of motion to a functionally meaningful measure. A ligament strain occurs especially in sports, but can also happen in everyday life, when joints are exposed to unusual movements or exertion. The affected joints swell, hurt and are less resilient. The treatment involves ligament extension with splinting and immobilization of the joint. Read all important information about ligamentous stretch here.
Ligament Strain: Description
The ligaments (ligaments) consist of little elastic, firm connective tissue. You can find them at every joint in the body. The ligaments stabilize the joint and ensure that the natural range of motion of the joint is not exceeded. A ligament strain (also called ligament strain) occurs especially in sports or by sudden or violent movements in everyday situations. By the force of the actually less elastic bands are stretched in length. Depending on the intensity of the force and the strength of the band, it is stretched more or less – at least to a certain extent. If a certain elongation is exceeded, the band can also tear completely or partially (ligament tear).
Depending on the sport, some joints are particularly vulnerable: In volleyball, for example, a torn ligament on the fingers is typical, in ball sports such as football or tennis are affected by a ligament strain foot and ankle especially often. The cruciate ligaments and the inner ligament of the knee are often injured in jerky rotational movements of the foot, such as in ski accidents or football. Typical skier injury is also the so-called ski thumb. The ellenseitigen band tears at the thumb base joint when the person concerned while skiing with the ski pole gets caught or falls onto the spread hand, causing a large force on the thumb acts.
If one compares the frequency of the ligament strains on the entire body, one finds that with a straps strain knee or foot are affected more frequently, than the fingers. Least of all occurs a ligament strain on the elbow or in the shoulder. Ligament strain accounts for about 20 percent of all sports injuries. However, it is difficult to determine how many ligament strains occur in everyday life, since not all cases are medically examined and treated.
Ligament extension: symptoms
The symptoms of ligament distension depend on the extent of the injury. While those with slight stretch usually have hardly any complaints, a severe ligament strain or torn ligament can cause severe pain. Pain occurs especially during movement – for example while walking. In addition to pain, swelling and bruising (hematoma) at the site of injury may indicate stretched ligaments. On the other hand, it does not necessarily have to be bruised.
Only the doctor can differentiate between ligament distension and ligament tear using imaging techniques. Often an ankle, foot or knee can not be strained anymore. If the tape breaks, you sometimes hear a cracking sound. After ligament distension and torn ligaments, the joint is noticeably unstable. This will likely cause more ligament strain. Therefore, a complete cure by a sufficiently long protection or possibly surgical measures is necessary to avoid further ligament injuries.
Ligament dilation: causes and risk factors
Ligament distension usually occurs during exercise when the joint is excessively or very suddenly loaded. Ligament distension is particularly vulnerable to joints of the fingers, knee joints and ankle joints. Classically, a ligament strain occurs at fast turning movements, Physiologically only one rotation is possible up to a certain degree. Thereafter, during a slow motion, the rotation is automatically stopped by the bands. There are subtle sensors in the ligaments and muscles that signal this state of tension to the brain. The stretching of the ligaments is consciously perceived as a “pull” and, if necessary, relaxed again by a change in the body position. However, a very fast movement will not correct the excessive tension, causing the belt to overstretch and eventually rupture.
The knee is stabilized by four ligaments: the outer band, the inner band, the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments. They guide the movements in the knee and provide stability. The anterior cruciate ligament (anterior cruciate ligament rupture) is particularly frequently affected by ligament damage to the knee. The typical injury mechanism in the knee joint is a rotation of the knee with the foot fixed. In football, for example, it often happens that athletes get stuck in the grass with their shoes. That is why ankle strains and knees are particularly often affected during ligament straining. This can also be the case when skiing, when the ski gets stuck in the snow while the rest of the body continues to rotate.
In addition, injuries to the ligaments are very common hock, For example, when jogging, hiking or playing sports on uneven terrain, a careless moment can already lead to a “twisting”. Particularly common is the “supination trauma”, in which sufferers do not occur with the sole of the foot, but instead roll over the outer edge of the foot and thereby bend over. When kinking, ankle straps and possibly ligaments on the foot are affected by ligament strain. At the ankle one distinguishes between upper and lower ankle. Both joints are stabilized by a whole series of different ligaments. These include, for example, the inner band and the outer band. When kinking is usually the outer band affected, which is thereby exposed to a strong strain.
Although ligament strain usually occurs during sports, it can of course also occur in everyday situations. For example, if you slide off the stair or bend over, the ligaments are also overstressed and ligamentous extension is the result. Even such a “trifling injury” should definitely be examined by a doctor if there is heavy swelling and permanent pain.
Certain factors may increase the risk of ligament strain. Risk factors for ligament strain include:
- Lack of exercise
- Fast sports associated with frequent changes of direction (squash, badminton, tennis, volleyball, skiing, football, etc.)
- Sports on uneven terrain
- Previous damage to ligaments (ligament strain, ligament tear)
- Congenital connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
Ligament extension: examinations and diagnosis
The right contact person for suspected ligament strain (torn ligament) is a Specialist in Orthopaedics, Try to keep the affected joint as well as possible on the way to the doctor. In the case of injuries to the foot, this is achieved, for example, by the use of crutches. At the doctor’s appointment, the doctor will first ask you questions about the current symptoms and possible previous illnesses or previous surgeries (anamnesis). Here you should describe the accident and the symptoms exactly. Possible questions of the doctor could be:
- Where are the pains exactly located?
- Could you please describe the accident?
- Did you already have injuries to this joint?
- Have you already had surgery on the joint?
- Do you do sports? If so, which sports and how intense?
After the anamnesis interview follows the physical examination, The doctor will first look at the injury site. He can draw conclusions on the severity of the injury from the extent of the swelling and a possible bruise. He will also try to move the joint gently. With a torn ligament, the affected joint may be in a malposition. To determine the exact extent of the ligamentous extension, further investigations are necessary.
Ligament dilation or torn ligaments can be visualized using various imaging techniques. In orthopedic practice, an ultrasound device is usually used, with which the orthopedist can easily see ligament injuries of superficial ligaments (such as on the ankle). Lower lying ligaments such as the cruciate ligaments in the knee are better represented by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Even if a ligament tear requires surgery, an MRI makes sense, as it gives the surgeon a good overview of the extent of the damage even before the operation. To exclude bone injuries, an X-ray of the affected area is often taken.
Ligament extension: treatment
In a ligamentous expansion different options of therapy come into consideration. It is important, above all, to protect the joint and to suspend any further burden. Immediately after the injury, you can improve the prognosis through certain measures (“First Aid”). The necessary measures are well summarized with the so-called “PECH rule”. The individual letters stand for:
P for PAUSE: Stop the load immediately and sit or lie down. Even if the pain seems bearable at first. For example, if you resume the sport after a few minutes, you risk aggravating the injury.
E for EIS: Refrigerate the affected area for about 15 to 20 minutes with ice packs (“cool packs”) or with envelopes of cold water. The cold causes the blood vessels to contract and less blood escapes from injured vessels into the surrounding tissue. The ice does not belong directly to the bare skin, put a cloth in between.
C for COMPRESSION: If possible, you should create a compression bandage. This also prevents bleeding into the tissue.
H for HIGH BEARINGS: Store the injured area. This allows the venous blood to flow back to the heart more easily. This will reduce the swelling.
Even if the pain subsides quickly, you should have the injury checked by a doctor. It is not possible for the layman to distinguish a ligament strain from a torn ligament, and this is only possible for the doctor with further examinations. However, if you continue to practice sports with a ligament injury, serious consequences may occur: if it does not heal properly, the instability in the joint can lead to further injuries. If the joint remains in a deformed position, joint wear (osteoarthritis) threatens.
Ligament extension: treatment at the doctor
When ligaments stretch, it is usually sufficient to stabilize the joint for some time by bandages. In addition, ointments or sports gels can be applied to the pain on the injured site, for example with the active ingredient diclofenac. With ligament distension in the legs, it may be useful to use crutches for a few days to relieve the joint. Depending on the injured joint different stabilization options are possible:
Ligament extension: ankle joint
When the ankle is stretched, functional bandages are created to stabilize and relieve the joint, the so-called tapes. For this purpose, elastic plasters are glued to the skin, which should take over the function of the band. In addition, rails or classic bandages can be used, which prevent above all a further buckling of the foot.
Ligament extension: knee
When a ligament is stretched in the knee, an extension bar is created, with which the knee joint can no longer be moved. In addition, the leg is often sedated with bandages. In addition, there are special rails that still allow the knee a certain mobility (orthoses).
Ligament extension: fingers
With a ligament strain in the finger, the affected finger can simply be attached to a neighboring finger with a stable bandage. Thus, the ligamentous apparatus is no longer burdened and can heal.
Ligament dilation: How long to sick?
Whether and how long you will be off sick after a stretch of the ligaments depends on the severity of the injury and your job. Nurses, waiters, construction workers, and other professionals who naturally have to walk a lot are usually prescribed sick leave for one or two weeks if their foot or knee is stretched. Thereafter, another investigation. If the ligament strain has healed well and you have hardly any pain, you can go back to work afterwards. Professional athletes must definitely spare themselves for several weeks. If training is started again, only light exercises should be done in the beginning and the joint should be relieved gradually.
People with a predominantly sedentary job usually do not have to be on sick leave or only for a few days. Try to raise your leg at work and walk slower and more cautiously than usual. Stretching your fingers usually does not take sick leave, unless you have to do a manual job or write on a computer.
Ligament extension: disease course and prognosis
Similar to other sports injuries, the same applies to the ligament distension: duration of treatment and prognosis depend on the severity of the injury and the timely initiation of therapy. A ligament extension is often barely noticeable after a few days. With a well-torn ligament tear, the pain should subside again after about two weeks. During this time, the joint may be slightly loaded, but you should generally refrain from sports and longer running distances.
If a ligament strain is not treated, it may come as a late consequence of instability in the affected joint. The malposition damages the articular cartilage, resulting in premature joint wear (arthrosis). If a foot or finger is affected by a ligament strain, the injury is often treated only insufficiently, and in the following period damage occurs again very quickly. If the tapes are damaged further and further, a so-called dovetail joint can arise, which has almost no own stability. A ligament strain So be sure to take it seriously and should be treated by a doctor.