Masks are now optional in healthcare settings. Learn more.

Tendon and Ligament Injuries

Tendon and Ligament Injuries

About tendons and ligaments

  • A tendon is made of fibrous connective tissue and attach muscles to bones. The primary function of a tendon is to transmit the mechanical force of muscle contraction to the bones. In other words, a tendon serves to move the bone to which it is attached. With advanced age, tendons become more prone to degeneration followed by injuries. Tendon repair often requires lengthy rehabilitation, especially in the elderly.
  • A ligament is made of fibrous connective tissue that attaches bones to bones and bone to cartilage, and usually holds together structures. The primary function of ligaments is to provide joint stability and maintain joint position. Think of the main knee ligaments – the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments. They connect the thigh bone to the shin bone and keep the knee stable so you can walk and support your weight.

About Soft Tissue injuries

Tendons and ligaments are soft tissues. There are two categories of soft tissue injuries: Acute and overuse injuries. Acute injuries involve trauma, while chronic injuries result from overuse and repetitive motions that occur so regularly that they can cause bursitis and tendonitis.

Many acute soft tissue injuries of ligaments and tendons can be treated conservatively with rest, ice, compression, elevation and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, bracing, and physical therapy.  The most severe strains and sprains may require surgical repair.

What are common types of tendon and ligament injuries?

Tendons and ligaments in the upper and lower limbs are some of the most common sites for musculoskeletal injuries during physical activity including sports and in laborers such as painters, and gardeners who perform repetitive motions. 

About Ligament Sprains

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligament. The severity of the sprain is graded depending on the level of damage.

  • A first-degree sprain is a stretched ligament causing microscopic damage but no instability.
  • A second-degree sprain is a partial tear of the ligament with symptoms and only mild instability.
  • A third-degree sprain is a complete tear of the ligament. A severe sprain can be confused with a fracture. A ligament tear can occur in the middle of the ligament or at one end where it attaches to bone. If the tear is at the bone it can cause an avulsion fracture, an injury that tears a piece of bone torn off with the ligament.

What causes a ligament sprain?

Sprains are usually caused by forcing the joint out of its normal range of motion which stretches the ligaments too severely. Sprains are often the result of a trauma like a fall or a sports injury that forces a joint out of its normal range such as twisted ankle from walking on an uneven surface, or sudden changes in direction with the foot planted.

What are the symptoms of a ligament sprain?

Ligament sprains typically affect the ankle, knee, and wrist. Symptoms of a ligament sprain include pain, swelling and bruising and commonly affect the ankle, knee, and wrist.  Other symptoms include stiffness, reduced range of motion, inability to bear weight or use the joint normally, and hearing or sensing a pop at the time of the injury.

Common ligament sprains

  • Injuries to knee ligaments including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
  • The ankle is one of the most commonly sprained joints.
  • Wrist sprains happen for all sorts of reasons, from sports like skateboarding and gymnastics, to slipping and falling and reaching out to stop yourself.

About Muscle and Tendon Strains

Tendons suffer strains. A strain is a twist, pull or tear of a muscle or tendon. Strains typically occur at the junction where the muscle and the tendon meet. A strain is commonly called a pulled muscle. The legs, ankles, hands, and elbows are common sites of strain injuries. The most common type of injury to tendons is tendonitis, an overuse injury. It is characterized by activity-related pain, local tenderness and decreased strength and movement.

What causes strains?

Strains often occur during sports like soccer but can also occur from repetitive motions as are found in tennis and golf, or from lifting a heavy object including weightlifting, slip and falls, running, jumping, and throwing.

What are the symptoms of a strain?

Strains can be a mild stretch or a partial or complete tear. Symptoms include loss of function, pain and tenderness, swelling, bruising, cramping, muscle weakness and reduced range of motion.  Strains typically occur in the low back, groin, calf, and in the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh.

What are some common tendon strains?

  • Achilles tendonitis is the most common tendon strain. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscle to the heel of your foot. A complete rupture of the Achilles tendon may cause severe pain and makes it impossible to walk.
  • Wrist tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons that connect the bones of the lower arm to the bones in the fingers. This affects the ability to grip objects and move the fingers.
  • Tennis or Golfer’s elbow is tendonitis of the forearm muscles that attach to outside or inside of the elbow.

Ortho Illinois is an orthopedic practice that specializes in finding solutions for our patients with chronic pain, to improve their quality of life and function. Ortho Illinois is the leading bone and joint provider in Northern Illinois. We have offices in five convenient clinic locations. Call us to find a location near you and begin your journey into top quality, one-stop, multi-specialty orthopedic care.