Ligaments are fibrous (rigid) bands of tissue that hold two bones together.
Ligaments are sprained when a sudden movement causes them to tear. Assessment by a chartered physiotherapist or doctor as possible after the injury is advised.
The aims of physiotherapy are to restore full pain-free movement and strength to the affected joint. Initially as well as using R.I.C.E. principles below, electrotherapy such as ultrasound and interferential may be used to reduce pain and swelling. Deep friction massage to minimize scar tissue formation is also helpful. As pain and swelling settles, exercise is progressed from gentle range of motion exercises to balance and strengthening work.
Tears from ligament sprains can be classified as 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree and treatment directed accordingly
- 1st Degree: Mild sprains with minor pain, swelling and only very temporary dysfunction. Usually do not require medical or physiotherapy intervention to resolve fully.
- 2nd Degree: Moderate Sprains- pain, swelling and dysfunction (e.g. limp).
This type of sprain will recover quicker and better with physiotherapy.
- 3rd Degree: Major sprain- pain, swelling and major dysfunction (e.g. unable to walk). This type of sprain needs medical intervention for surgical repair and or immobilisation in a cast or splint.
Until your injury has been assessed and for the first 48 hours you should follow the R.I.C.E. principle:
REST: do not use the affected joint.
ICE: for 10 minutes at a time as often as possible especially in the first 24 hrs.
COMPRESSION: apply a firm bandage.
ELEVATION: raise the injured joint above the level of the heart (to help drain swelling).