Ligaments connect bone to bone. Ligaments help stabilise the joint, maximising strength and preventing excess movement. Ligaments are sprained when the joint is stressed beyond its normal range. Common causes of a ligament injury include twisting or landing awkwardly. Most ligament injuries if treated properly can mean a return to normal activities and sport between 4 to 12 weeks. Your physiotherapist is correct, strengthening exercises are important. A physiotherapist is an expert on sports injuries and is best placed to advise on ligament injuries. I will give some general tips here but for more specific and detailed advice, ask your physiotherapist.
General treatment tips for ligament injuries
Icing the injured area is important for the first 48 hours. Apply ice wrapped in a towel or other cloth to the injury for 15-minute intervals, once per hour on the first day. On the following days, ice the hand for 15 minutes once every 3 hours. The ice reduces inflammation and swelling. After about four days, applying heat to the affected area can help; heat increases blood flow in the area thus reducing inflammation by releasing inflammatory substances from the affected area.
Keeping the injured area elevated higher than the heart ensures blood does not pool around the injured ligament and reduces swelling and allows the injured ligament to heal quicker and correctly. For example, keep the affected hand or ankle elevated during sleep by propping it up using pillows. Try to sleep on your back.
A support or brace may be required to ensure the injured area is kept immobile and in the correct healing position. The brace should be tight enough to keep the area rigid, but not so tight it constricts blood flow. Once the injury is well enough to return to sports, it is important to strap the affected area. The good method of strapping to protect hand ligaments is called “spica” strapping. Your physiotherapist will show you how to do this. There are also youtube videos demonstrating how to do spica strapping. Anti-inflammatory drugs will reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain around the injured ligament. Over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen can work effectively.
Alternative treatmentThere are no alternative treatments that will cure torn ligaments, however some supplements may help reduce inflammation so may accelerate healing. Alternative treatments are not meant to replace conventional treatment and advice from your physiotherapist. They may compliment conventional treatment. Omega 3 fish oils naturally reduce inflammation so can bring down the swelling of inflammatory injuries like ligament tears. An omega 3 supplement that has potent anti-inflammatory effects is Lyprinol®. Lyprinol® comes from the New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel, Lyprinol® is said to be 200 to 300 times more effective than other fish oils and flax seed. Lyprinol can give relief from other inflammatory conditions like joint pain and arthritis. Lyprinol® is available from Whelehans.
Arnica is a homeopathic remedy which has traditionally been used to bring down bruising, ease stiffness and swelling. Some studies have shown it can accelerate healing. Arnica tablets will work better for ligament tears than creams or ointments. Arnica may accelerate healing in injuries such as ligament tears. Other natural treatments for inflammatory type conditions are the herb Devil’s Claw and the natural supplement Glucosamine (which is actually found naturally in our joints). The effectiveness of these two supplements for ligament tears and other conditions is questionable. Whelehans stock a traditional remedy called “The Rub” based on a traditional Irish recipe of herbs passed down for over 100 years. It can give some relief when rubbed into the injured area; however like other alternative treatments mentioned above, it should only compliment conventional treatment.
Whelehans are delighted to announce our new Physiotherapy service. With sessions running in our private consultation room, the clinic is hosted by Sinead Brogan, our fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist and certified STOTT pilates instructor. Reduced rates for over 60’s and sport clubs. Book a physiotherapy appointment by calling Sinead at 0831722171