What is a Ligament?
A ligament is a tough bundle of fiber which connects two or more bones to each other around the joints. These are made of collagen fibers and are not visible on X-rays.
Ligaments are frequently confused with Tendons. Tendons are fibres which connect muscles to bone.
What is the function of a ligament?
Ligaments bind two bones in such a way that the joints can move in a restricted way. They prevent excessive and abnormal movement in the joints and also provide protection from the dislocation.
How does a ligament get injured?
Ligament injury or ligament tear is caused due to excessive bending or torsional force along a joint. The ligament fails to hold the joint in place and gives away. Ligament injuries are commonly known as "ligament sprain".
Types of Ligament injuries
There are 3 grades of ligament injuries depending on the severity of the tear.
Common ligament injuries
Almost any joint can have ligament injury. However few joints are more susceptible to these injuries. Joints which frequently suffer from ligament injuries are:
- Lower back
Ligament injuries are frequently missed as they are not visible on x-ray. A missed grade II or III sprain cam cause prolonged discomfort to the patient.
Thorough clinical examination can help in diagnosing the injury. MRI scan can pick up ligament injuries.
Treatement depends on the grade of injury and the joint involved.
- Grade I injuries are treated with rest, ice compression and analgesics.
- Grade II injuries are treates with braces with a longer period of rest.
- Grade III injuries are treated with absolute rest or in plaster if possible.
Some ligaments with grade II of III injuries never heal by themselves (e.g.- Anterior cruciate ligament of the knee). These ligemants require surgical intervention. Read about ACL injuries under Arthroscopy.