A ligament is an elastic tissue that connects the bones in a joint. Ligament sprain occurs as result of overstretched or partially or completely torn ligaments, and may affect the tendons and muscles of the joint as well.
A Ligament sprain may involve one or more ligaments, and occur in any joint of the body including ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, or neck. The sprain is usually occurs as a result of a direct injury or sudden twisting of the joint. Major risk factors of ligament sprain include muscle fatigue, lack of physical inactivity, or a sudden bout of physical activity, increased weight, improper shoes or sport equipment.
Ligament sprain is usually characterized by a snap or pop sound that is heard during the ligament tear or injury. Other symptoms may include:
Sudden pain or swelling, especially when the affected area is touched.
Immobility of the joint
Bruising and warmth at the site of injury
You may also get a feeling that your joint may give away, especially if it is a joint in the lower limb.
Your doctor may perform a thorough physical examination by moving your injured and normal joints in different directions. Other tests may be prescribed to confirm the diagnosis:
X-ray: A dye-based x-ray, known as athrogram or arthrography, can help reveal any injuries or tears in the ligaments. You may need more than one x-ray to confirm the diagnosis.
Computed tomography scan: CT scan uses x-rays and computers to take pictures of injured ligaments.
Arthroscopy: Your doctors may perform a small incision in your knee and insert a thin, long plastic tube with a camera, light and magnifying lens on it. This may help the doctor to look into your knee for any ligament injuries, and thereby identify the cause of ligament sprain.
Treatment of ligament sprain depends on the underlying cause and the ligament that was injured. The extent of injury and the parts involved will also determine your treatment protocols. The first aid procedures for ligament sprain include Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, also known as R.I.C.E. These measures will help lower the pain, and prevent aggravation of the injury. Your doctor may also recommend pain medications to decrease swelling and pain. You may also require devices such as splints, cast, bandages or braces may support the ligaments and decrease the stress on weight-bearing joint. You may also require surgery to reconstruct the torn ligaments.
Mild exercises under the guidance of a physical therapist may help improve movement after the completion of the initial treatment.
Proper treatment can help you recover completely after a ligament sprain. However, there are several ways to prevent the injury as well. You should always warm up before starting any physical activity. Avoid sudden increase in the intensity or duration of physical activity. Always maintain strong muscles and use the right equipment when training.
Ligament sprain surgery may cause excessive bleeding after surgery. Untreated sprains may cause weakness of joints and limited activity. Some patients may require prolonged use of braces or supports. You should discuss the complications with your doctor before discussing your treatment.