Ligaments attach bone to bone. Although ligaments are strong and rigid by nature, strains and sudden forces can cause them to rupture and tear. Ligament damage is caused when the fibers become torn, and the severity depends on the extent to which they have torn and the pain that is experienced. Because of the lack of blood supply to the tissue, tears sometimes become permanent, which can end in their removal. Also, if a ligament is stretched past a certain point, it can result in the ligament never returning to its original state.
Ligament injuries are classified into three groups according to the severity of the injury:
- 1st degree sprain (mild): some tearing or overstretch of the fibres (less than 10%), no joint instability, mild pain, minimal swelling, no bruising
- 2nd degree sprain (moderate): separation and tearing of fibres between (11 – 50%) causing moderate instability and moderate to severe pain, swelling and stiffness.
- 3rd degree sprain (severe): 51 – 100% tear of the ligament, gross instability, severe pain, swelling. Usually requires lengthy immobilization and/or surgery. If total rupture, stress test may not be painful, a total rupture needs surgery.
The most common cause of ligament sprains is excessive force directed towards the knee. Which structure is injured depends on the amount of force, the direction of the force and position of the knee.
Chiropractic treatment of 1st and 2nd degree sprains involve rest, ice, compression/elevation, soft tissue work, and gradual introduction of exercises to strengthen the muscles and improve proprioception and nerve and muscle function.
Chiropractors treat 1st and 2nd degree sprains but 3rd degree sprains will require surgery first to repair it. After which, chiropractic treatment is an ideal way of helping you after surgery to rehabilitate the injury to regain the optimal function and fitness.
The aim of chiropractic treatment is to minimize scar tissue formation and build up the strength and reflexes that protect the joint. An injured ligament rarely becomes as strong as before the injury but effective rehabilitation and treatment minimize the risk of long term problems.