Being in pain can turn even the most mundane of tasks (such as taking a shower, getting dressed, or driving) into painful uphill battles. And while the aches and discomfort themselves are enough to cause anxiety, having them interfere with things you love doing makes matters even more unbearable.
Yet, sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what it is that’s bothering you. Is it sore muscles? A stress fracture? Tendonitis? Injured ligaments?
In hopes of helping you better understand certain types of injuries, below is an overview of the differences between an injured tendon and an injured ligament.
What is a tendon?
Tendons are soft fibrous tissues that hold muscles together to the bone. They are located at the ends of every muscle in your body. When you contract a muscle, the tendons extend and contract to allow movement.
What are ligaments?
Ligaments are tough, flexible connective tissue that holds bones and cartilage together in a joint. They crisscross across where the bones meet and provide stability.
What causes tendon and ligament injuries?
Whenever a person overuses a muscle due to repetitive movement, tendons can become irritated or inflamed and suffer from small tears. This is known as tendonitis. In addition to overuse, a patient could experience tendonitis due to sudden force or a healthcare condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or diabetes.
Some examples of activities that can result in tendonitis include:
- Working in an assembly line
- Working with tools that vibrate
- Lifting items that are too heavy
- Running without gradually increasing intensity or distance
On the other hand, injuries to ligaments often occur from a hard blow or trauma or awkward movements, such as accidents, missteps, or landing incorrectly from a jump. When a person injures a ligament, they can sometimes actually hear a popping sound as the connective tissue is torn.
Some of the most common activities that cause ligament injuries include:
- Stopping suddenly
- Contact sports
- Pivoting while feet are firmly in place
- Landing on your knees
Both types of injuries have similar symptoms: Sudden pain, inability to continue physical activity, a loss of range of motion, tenderness, and swelling. Pain may feel worse first thing in the morning. However, if a person has an injured ligament, they may also feel like the affected joint gives way when bearing their body weight.
Treating Tendon or Ligament Injuries
Never self-diagnose an injury. Seeking medical attention is the best way to get proper care and prevent complications. That being said, once you’re at home, you can treat your injuries by taking time to rest. It doesn’t matter how much of an overachiever or competitive person you are, going back to your sport of choice before fully hearing could end up sidelining you permanently.
In addition, ice the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day. Keep the body part compressed and elevated, and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to help you reduce pain.
You may also benefit from stretching exercises and physical therapy. However, always ask your doctor for specific instructions and modifications to avoid aggravating your injury.
Preventing Injuries of Tendons and Ligaments
The best way to prevent injuries to tendons and ligaments is to use precautions at all times. This includes taking the following measures:
- If your work requires repetitive movements, request ergonomic equipment.
- If you have to lift heavy objects, use proper form.
- Stretch and warm up before exercising.
- If you engage in contact sports, wear protective gear.
- If you participate in an exercise program, increase the intensity gradually.
- Wear shoes that are appropriate for your sport or exercise of preference. If you’re not sure, consult a coach, trainer, or staff at a specialty store.
- No matter what’s your sport of preference, always take time to cross-train: This will give allow tendons and ligaments to rest from their usual activity and strengthen your muscles, which reduces stress on the connective tissue.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At the Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re suffering from a tendon or ligament injury, let us help you get back to doing the things you love.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.