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Ligament tear | How do strains happen? | Symptoms | Treatment

Updated: Mar 30

What is a ligament tear?

In general, ligament tear or injuries are prevalent in athletes and can occur at any joint. Since it is sport-specific the knee and ankle are especially vulnerable.

When the joint is stressed beyond its usual range, ligaments get strained. Twisting or landing awkwardly are the most common reasons for a ligament injury. 

In fact, when the ligaments around a particular joint are at full-stretch, it can cause it to tear away from the bone. 

How do ligament tears or strains happen?

When you are in a contact sport, like football then you possibly have the biggest chance of strains. In addition, strains of the hand and forearm can even occur to individuals in non-contact sports like tennis, golf, or rowing, due to doing the same motions over and over.

These injuries can happen during your workouts at the gym, or they also can occur at home or as well as at the workplace, particularly if you perform lots of heavy lifting.

What is the difference between sprains or strains?

In general, both sprains or strains have very similar signs: pain and inflammation, and sometimes bruising, at the involved area. However, the pain you experience may be mild, moderate or severe depending on how bad the sprain or strain is.

Knee ligaments and ankle ligaments are the most prevalent torn ligaments. The reason is these joints are commonly weight-bearing and always under high stress with any change of direction sports or as well as full-contact sports.

Grades of ligament tear:

  1.  Grade I – mild ligament tear

  2.  Grade II – moderate ligament tear

  3.  Grade III – complete ligament tear

Symptoms of Ligament Tear?

Usually, the trauma that overstresses the ligament beyond its load capacity causes ligament injury:

  1. Traumatic basis.

  2. Unexpected onset of pain and severe swelling.

  3. Subsequent joint imbalance.

  4. Weakened function eg can’t walk, run or weight-bear.

How long it takes for ligament injury to heal?

Based on its place and severity treatment of a ligament injury differs.

It usually takes for grade I sprain to recover within a few weeks. In addition, you will gain maximal ligament strength after six weeks when the collagen fibers have grown. In this phase, it is wise to rest from painful any activity or sports, ice the injury, and intake some anti-inflammatory medications

Furthermore, electrical modalities, massage, and exercises implemented by physiotherapy will support to accelerate the healing process.

In order to help you to return you to function swiftly and help you to prevent a possible re-injury, your physiotherapist will oversee your strengthening and improvement joint range of motion exercises.

Generally, grade II sprains are more important and tend to disable the patient. There is a need for load protection during the early healing phase when these injuries occur. 

During the early therapy sessions, you may be required the use of a weight-bearing brace or some supportive taping. This is common depending on the ligament injury which will help you to relieve the pain and while avoiding stretching of the healing ligament. 

Following a grade II injury, when the joint gets stable and you improve the muscle strength and control, you can normally gradually return to activity. It can take up to 6 to 12 weeks while depending on the severity of your injury and what sort of sport or activity you are wishing to continue. You can seek the advice and free consultation of your physiotherapist for what s/he recommends particularly for you and your injury. 

Physiotherapy is a highly recommended method of treatment for all grade II ligament sprain patients to get recovered to full post-injury function and as well as to prevent future instability which can lead to further injury.

Please note that grade III injury is a really important injury and at Hydroactive we highly suggest the evaluation from an orthopedic surgeon decide if you will need early surgical repair. If your condition requires surgery, then you will be guided by your surgeon and physiotherapist during your rehabilitation phase.

When you experience non-surgical ligament injury, you must protect the injury from weight-bearing overloads. By doing this, the main goal is to allow for ligament healing in a short/non-stressful position. As you and gradually return to normal activities your recovery will be gradually improved to progress the rehabilitating ligament.

Well-informed and specifically-guided physiotherapy will often result in an optimal outcome. Please note that, if your ligament injury is severe, you may not return to your full level of activity for even up to 12 months since severe ligament injuries can even take longer. You are welcome to have a free consultation with your physiotherapist for all grade III ligament injuries.

An anterior talofibular ligament tear

Anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) injury can happen as part of the lateral ligament group injuries 2 and it is the most typical of the ligament injuries. The injuries can involve either soft tissue tears, avulsion fractures or both.


Commonly, the main cause of ATFL injuries an is inversion to the ankle, either with or without plantar flexion. Nearly two-thirds of ankle sprains are isolated injuries to the ATFL (note that the ATFL is, in fact, the most vulnerable ligament in the lateral collateral complex of the ankle). There is a common view that avulsion is more prevalent at the fibular than the talar end of the ligament 2.

What is a scapholunate ligament tear?

Two of the small carpal bones unitedly, the scaphoid and lunate are connected with the scapholunate (SL) ligament. The location of them is near the middle of the wrist. The SL ligament secures the bones move in harmony and so the wrist has a smooth rotation. When you tear it, the bones separate in different directions, which results in a painful lack of grip strength. This injury to the wrist, however, is not unusual and is frequently sustained by athletes. 

What are the symptoms of a scapholunate ligament tear?

Some symptoms of scapholunate ligament tear happened in the wrist include the following:

  1. Pain in the wrist on the thumb side

  2. Swelling

  3. Bruising

  4. Weak grip

  5. Snapping or popping in the wrist

What are the main causes a scapholunate ligament tear?

In general, the main reason for SL tears is an accident. When you fall or involve in sudden weight-bearing activities it can lead to the injury, which can cause of separation of the small bones within the inner wrist. As well, SL tear is also a common injury among athletes. The tear is frequently accompanied by fractures 

What’s the Healing Time of a Knee Ligament Injury?

Depending on the area of injury and severity the treatment of a ligament injury varies. 

You will usually recover from grade I sprain within a few weeks. And Once the collagen fibers have matured after six weeks, you will feel maximal ligament strength. It is also helpful to rest from painful activities while icing the injury, and intake of some anti-inflammatory medications. 

Electrical modalities, massage, strengthening and joint exercises implemented by physiotherapy recovery will help to hasten the healing process which will also help to prevent a future tear.

When you have a grade II sprain injury, you may need to utilize a weight-bearing brace or some supportive taping which is prevalent in the initial treatment period. This will help you to relieve the pain and avoid stretching of the healing ligament. After a grade II injury, about six weeks later, you can normally return to activity when your joint becomes steady and no longer feeling pain. 

Also, physiotherapy recovery helps you to accelerate the recovery process via electrical modalities, massage, strengthening and as well as joint exercises. 

For grade III injuries, you will usually need to wear a hinged knee brace to protect the injury from weight-bearing stresses. The main goal is to let for ligament healing and slowly return to regular activities. 

Please note that physiotherapy can successfully treat these injuries. Also, the patient may not return to their full level of activity for 3 to 4 months. 

Acupuncture treatment for a ligament tear

In general, acupuncture treatment can decrease pain and swelling in an acute sprain in a matter of minutes while lessening healing time significantly. Even when you have grade 2 and 3 sprains, where there is real ligament damage, acupuncture becomes very efficient. It is better to start the treatment earlier once sprains occur.

Repetitive movement can also cause tendonitis which is a very common sports injury, and since it can rarely be traced back to find the cause of an original injury, it usually becomes a late-stage chronic pain by the time you seek for help.

When you implement a combination of acupuncture, massage, and as well as a liniment, it can make the biggest difference for this injury. It is important, however, to carefully examining the movement which is the cause of the issue.

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