Ligament and Tendon Injuries

Ligaments and tendons are body tissues that are essential to our movement. Ligaments are fibrous connective tissue that connect bones to bones and serve to hold structures together, while tendons are fibrous connective tissue that attach muscles to bone or other body structures. An injury to either of these connective tissues can range from mildly irritating to totally debilitating.

Ligament injuries and tendon injuries can generally fall into two categories – sprains or strains. Though they may sound the same, sprains and strains are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament, while a strain is a stretch or tear in a muscle or a tendon.

Causes and Symptoms of Ligament and Tendon Injuries

Sprains typically occur when a person falls, twists or is hit in a particular way that causes the body to move from its normal position. Sprained ankles are the most common form of sprain that occurs, while wrist and thumb sprains are also common. Strains are considered an overuse injury – when a person makes the same motion over and over again for a prolonged period of time, there is an increased risk for a tendon strain.

Both ligament and tendon injuries are most common in athletes. People who play contact sports like hockey, football or boxing face the biggest risk – although athletes who play noncontact sports like golf, tennis or rowing that require repetitive movements can also suffer from these injuries.

If you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, you may be experiencing a tendon or ligament injury:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Inability to bear weight on the affected are, if applicable
  • Discoloration of the skin around the injury site
  • Stiffness

Nonsurgical Versus Surgical Ligament and Tendon Repair

The correct course of action in treatment depends on the severity of the injury. Many ligament injuries and tendon injuries can be treated using the “RICE” method, which is an at-home care strategy that involves:

  • Rest. Taking a break can help promote faster healing and prevent further injury.
  • Ice. Applying an ice pack to the injury site for about 10 to 20 minutes every hour or so during the first one to three days will help reduce swelling.
  • Compression. An ACE bandage or other elastic compression wrap can help reduce swelling in the affected area.
  • Elevation. Keeping the affected area above heart level for two to three hours each day can help reduce swelling.

In more severe cases, ligament repair or tendon repair may require surgery or another invasive technique. Surgery can:

  • Repair a ligament or tendon that will not heal on its own
  • Reconstruct a ligament with tissue from a nearby ligament or tendon

Physical therapy and rehabilitation can be helpful in ensuring full range of motion returns in the affected area.

Bone and Joint Healthcare at Adena Health System

The team of orthopaedic (bone and joint) specialists at Adena Health System strives to get you the best care available with the least amount of down time. The orthopaedic team at Adena follows a conservative approach to care — beginning with the least invasive treatment available -- in the hopes that more major care isn’t necessary. Need help finding a healthcare provider? Search Adena Health System online or call 740-779-FIND (3463).

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