What Is a Ligament?

Learn About Ligaments and How to Treat Ligament Injuries

Ligaments hold the shoulder joint together.
Ligaments hold the shoulder joint together. SPRINGER MEDIZIN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

A ligament is a tough band of fibrous tissue that connects bone to bone or bone to cartilage and supports and strengthens joints. The main function of ligaments are to keep the bones of the skeleton in proper alignment and prevent abnormal movements of the joints.

While ligaments are extremely strong, they can be stretched or even torn. This usually occurs during an extreme force such as a fall or another high impact.

When a ligament is injured because it is stretched too far from its normal position it is called a sprain.

The most commonly injured ligaments include those in the:

Ligament Injury Treatment

Injuries to a ligament are common, especially during athletic activity. Ligaments in the ankle, knee, and wrist are consistently in action during athletic activity, and thus are under a lot of stress. The stretching or even tearing of a ligament is very possible. Luckily, there is a method of treatment.

A common acronym for the treatment of a ligament injury is RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Rest: Getting proper rest is an extremely important aspect of injury recovery, regardless of if the injury occurred to a muscle, tendon, ligament, or bone. Once injured, further activity that stresses the injured area must be stopped until the injury is allowed to recover over a period of time.

Recovery time varies based on the particular injury, but the need for rest following an injury is universal. Be sure to give your body plenty of time to recover following any injury issues.

Ice: Cold contact provides short-term pain relief to an injured area, and also works to limit swelling by reducing the overall amount of blood flow to the injured area of the body.

When applying ice to an injured area, do not apply the ice directly to the skin or body. Instead, wrap the ice in a towel or paper towel before applying. It is suggested that ice is applied to an injured area for 15-20 minutes after an injury occurs, but no longer.

Compression: Compression is also important for post injury treatment. Compression helps to reduce and limit overall swelling. Compression also occasionally works to ease pain. Wrapping an injured area in a bandage is a good way to provide consistent compression to an injured area.

Elevation: Elevating an injured area after an injury occurs can also help to control overall swelling. Elevating is most effective when the injured area of the body is raised above heart level. This helps to control blood flow to the area, and thus reduce swelling.

Practicing this method can help to limit the overall impact of a ligament injury, and potentially speed up recovery time.

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