Ligaments are tissues in our body that are found around joints. They are different from muscles or tendons since they do not initiate any form of movement. Instead, ligaments are passive structures that provide support, stability and protection for our joints. Unfortunately, ligaments can be injured.
What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?
The term “sprain” usually refers to ligament damage. This is different from a “strain”, which primarily involves muscle damage. Ankle sprains are arguably the most common type of sprain and are usually a result of trauma.
Symptoms of Ligament injury
When you “roll your ankle” you sprain the ligaments in and around the joint. As with most sprain injuries, this affects the overall stability of the joint. For most sprains (but not all) the joint will swell and feel difficult to move. Usually, ligament injuries cause a joint to “give way” or feel unstable and can often be prone to repeated trauma in the future.
Healing Process for Ligament Injuries
When we tear a ligament (as with a sprain) the body tries to repair the area. It quickly and hastily lays down an inferior type of tissue to repair the ligament. You can also say that it lays these pieces down in a haphazard manner. A good analogy is to think of a big pile of uncooked spaghetti, where all the different pieces are thrown in different directions. One way to align all the pieces of spaghetti would be to roll your hand over them…eventually all the pieces of spaghetti would line up. In a sense, some treatments we provide are similar!
Treatment for Ligaments
A 2009 study performed on rat MCL’s (a ligament in the knee) found that instrument assisted soft tissue treatment (like the Graston technique) may accelerate early tissue healing. This effect was primarily found in the early stage of healing.
What does this mean?
It’s important to remember that a study like this was performed on rats! Nevertheless, it is another example of substantiating evidence for treatments like the Graston technique. At Burlington Sports Therapy we use various methods for treating ligament injuries. Laser therapy, IFC (interferential current), acupuncture, manual therapy like active release and of course Graston can all be helpful methods for accelerating healing.
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Hammer W. The effect of mechanical load on degenerated soft tissue. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2008; 12: 246-256.
Lohgmani MT, Warden SJ. Instrument assisted cross fiber massage accelerates knee ligament healing. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 2009; 39(7): 506-514.