Understanding Ligament Strain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Understanding Ligament Strain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Just like torn ligaments, ligament strains are typical sports injuries: They occur particularly frequently in sports such as soccer or skiing and when jogging. The ligaments in the upper ankle or knee are usually affected. Typical ligament strain symptoms include slight joint swelling and pain when moving and straining. If the affected joint is extensively rested after the injury, the healing process in the case of a ligament stretch usually does not take more than two weeks.

Causes of ligament stretching

If extreme movement in a joint causes heavy strain on the ligaments and exceeds the normal range of motion, this can result in ligament stretching. For example, the ligaments are heavily loaded when twisting the knee or ankle. An external force, such as a hit or a kick, can also cause a stretched ligament.

Ligament injuries can occur both in sports and everyday life – sometimes, a wrong planting of the foot or slipping on wet ground is enough to cause a ligament strain.

Ligament strains are prevalent in the upper ankle – i.e. the ankle. However, they also occur in the knee, elbow, wrist, and shoulder joints. The sports in which the most ligament injuries occur include jogging, football, tennis, squash and skiing.

Ligament strain is the mildest form of ligament injury – also known as a first-degree ligament injury. Even more extreme loads can lead to a torn or ruptured ligament. A stretched ligament is a preliminary stage of these two ligament injuries.


Ligament strain: Symptoms

Typical symptoms of a stretched ligament are pain when moving and loading the affected joint. However, the pain caused by a ligament stretch is much less pronounced than a torn ligament. Nevertheless, it is not always easy for a layperson to distinguish it from a torn ligament.

The swelling with this type of injury is also less pronounced than with a torn ligament. This can be explained by the fact that when the ligaments are stretched, the ligaments are only overstretched, but the tissue is not damaged. That is why hematomas, caused by bleeding into the tissue, are not among the typical symptoms of a ligament injury.

In addition to the pain and swelling, a stretched ligament also leads to a loss of function and strength in the affected joint. Standing and walking is usually possible because the joint remains stable, unlike a torn ligament. However, the joint needs to be fully resilient.

Prevent ligament stretching

An injury such as a stretched ligament can never be prevented with certainty because a ligament injury can occur due to a sudden, extreme movement, both during sports and in everyday life. However, through targeted training, the risk of ligament stretching can be reduced.

To minimize the risk of injury, it is first essential to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint. This additionally stabilizes the joint and relieves the ligaments. However, it is also advisable to train balance and coordination. Targeted coordination training can improve the interaction between the muscles and the running movement.

To train the muscles in the ankle, jumping on a mini trampoline or standing on one leg on a therapy board is recommended. The following exercise also strengthens the muscles in the ankle: Stand with your front foot on the edge of a step, lower your heels as far as possible and then push yourself back up.


the function of the ligaments

The ligaments in the knee, ankle or wrist run outside the respective joint and are responsible for its stability. In addition, they are also crucial for the movement execution of the joint. While the stability of the affected joint is largely retained when a ligament is stretched, a significant loss of joint stability can be observed when a ligament tears. Both types of injury also result in restricted functionality of the joint.

Ligaments comprise connective tissue cells supplied by tiny blood vessels between bones and ligaments. The ligaments in the joint are usually arranged in a wave shape. However, this arrangement is destroyed by extreme movement of the joint and severe stretching of the ligaments. After a ligament injury, the joint needs a lot of rest so that the ligaments can return to their natural position.

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