What is Ligament Injury?
A ligament injury affects your ligament – fibrous connective tissue which attaches one bone to another.
Knee ligament injuries, such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), can be very painful to the point that it may interfere with your daily activities and can recur.
There are four ligaments in the knee that are prone to injury, including:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – this is the most commonly injured knee ligament. It connects the thigh bone to the shin bone.
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) connects the thigh bone to the shin bone in your knee. It is rarely injured, except if you have had a car accident.
- Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) connects the femur to the fibula, the smaller leg bone on the outer side of the knee.
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL) connects the thigh bone to the shin bone on the inner side of the knee.
Causes of Ligament Injury
Ligament injuries, especially ACL, often occur during sports and activities that put pressure on the knee. Below are some activities that can put you at risk of ligament injury, including:
- Suddenly slowing down and changing direction
- Pivoting with your foot firmly planted
- Landing from a jump with the wrong foot position
- Stopping suddenly
- Receiving a direct hit to the knee
If the ligaments are injured, the connective tissue may be partially or completely torn.
When to See a Doctor for Ligament Injury
An orthopedic surgeon may perform a physical exam. If your knee is very tense and swollen with blood, your doctor may use a needle to remove it.
You may also need X-rays to make sure there are no broken bones, as well as an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to check for any ligament injuries.
Symptoms of Ligament Injury
Below are some symptoms of ligament injury:
- A feeling of looseness in the joint
- A loud pop sound at the time of injury
- Inability to put weight on the joint without pain
- Pain that occurs suddenly and is severe
- Swelling continues after the first 24 hours after injury
Ligament injuries require proper medical care. In some cases, such as an ACL tear, you may need surgery to stabilize your knee and not release it when you pivot or twist.
Treatment for Ligament Injury
A mild to moderate ligament injury may resolve on its own. To speed up the healing process, you can:
- Rest your knee by avoiding putting too much weight on your knee if it hurts. You will likely need to use crutches for some time.
- Apply ice to the injured knee area for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to lessen the pain and swelling. Do this for 2 to 3 days, or until you no longer feel pain and swelling
- Tie an elastic bandage, strap, or sleeve around the injured knee area to control pain and swelling.
- Raise your knee on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
- Wear a knee brace to stabilize your knee and protect it from further injury.
- Take pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen will help relieve pain and swelling from ligament injuries. Take the medications as recommended by your doctor.
- Practice stretching and strengthening exercises if recommended by your doctor. Do not stretch too much, as this will hurt badly.
Only your doctor can determine if you need ligament surgery. Most LCL and MCL tears do not require surgery. However, if it is either an ACL or PCL, the only treatment option is ACL reconstructive surgery to replace the torn ligament.
Treatment Cost for Ligament Injury
Treatment cost for ligament injury can vary greatly, depending on the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the hospital’s policies.
To calculate the estimated treatment for ligament injuries at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Ligament Injury
It is difficult to completely prevent ligament injuries, but you can take some preventive measures to minimise the chance sof injury, such as:
- Maintain flexibility.
- Exercises to strengthen the hips, pelvis and lower abdomen.
- Exercises that improve technique when performing sudden twisting and stopping movements.
- Exercises that emphasise proper technique and knee position when jumping and landing on a surface.
- Keep your thigh muscles strong by stretching and strengthening your muscles regularly.
- Warm up with light activity before moving on to more strenuous physical activities
- Make changes slowly. Avoid making your workout more intense suddenly
- Exercises to strengthen the leg muscles, such as hamstring exercises to ensure overall balance in leg muscle strength.
Wear footwear and pads suitable for your sport to prevent ligament injuries. If you downhill ski, make sure your ski bindings are properly adjusted by a professional so that your skis will release appropriately in case you fall.
Wearing a knee brace does not appear to prevent ligament injuries such as the ACL injury or reduce the risk of recurring injury after surgery.
Home Remedies for Ligament Injury
Once your doctor stabilizes your blood pressure, pulse rate and breathing rate after ligament surgery, you will be hospitalized or allowed to go home.
However, your recovery may be done on an outpatient basis. You will likely be provided with crutches and an immobilizer before returning home.
The following are some treatments for ligament injury you can do at home:
- Do not drive until your doctor allows you to.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions on activity restrictions
- Perform a physical exercise program recommended by your doctor to restore balance and strength to your muscles.
- Ask someone to help you with any work involving heavy-lifting, as it will be difficult for you until you can return to normal activities.
- Watch out for any complications, such as red rashes, swelling, and bleeding around the incision area – causing pain and chills.
- To reduce swelling, you may be asked to raise your leg and ice your knee. This is done for a few days after surgery.
- Keep the area of the surgery clean and dry. The sutures will be removed in your next visit.
- Take the pain relievers recommended by your doctor. Aspirin or other pain relievers may cause bleeding. Therefore, make sure you only take pain relievers recommended by your doctor.
Post-operative recovery and rehabilitation of ligament injuries may take up to several months. Your doctor will likely provide additional instructions or other treatment options depending on your condition.
Need to get treatment for a ligament injury? Contact Smarter Health to make appointments with orthopedic surgeons at home and abroad.