Ligaments and Tendons

31 August 2018

Ligaments and Tendons, Injury and Rehabilitation

Ligaments and Tendons are two types of connective tissue that contribute to the way we move.  Their functions, although complimentary, differ from each other can cause long term problems if not rehabilitated effectively.

 

Ligaments

Ligaments are passive structures that are anatomically positioned to protect the joint from excessive movement.  Each ligament is elasticated enough to allow full range of the joint while having the strength to also stabilise the joint. 

Ligament injuries are particularly common in the ankle. The ligaments on the outside of your ankle work to prevent the ankle rolling, but sprains occur when the ligaments are over stretched or put under excessive load.  The extent of the damage is dependent on the degree that the ankle rolls, so damage may range from a few fibres of the ligament to a full rupture.

 

Tendons

While our tendons are also connective tissue they are more elastic and are the connection between muscle and bone. It is this attachment that means the force generated by the muscle contraction can be transmitted to a bone, enabling a joint to move.

Tendons can withstand high levels of tension and the length of the tendon can vary depending on its role and the muscle that it is attached to – as well as per person

A good example of a tendon in action is the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscle to the back of the ankle. When walking or running the calf muscle contracts and the force passes through the Achilles tendon to the ankle, and enable you to push off the ball of your foot – helping to propel you forward.

 

Injury

Ligament and tendon injuries typically occur when they are over-loaded or there has been a change in the load. This causes the strain potentially resulting in tissue damage, swelling, bruising and pain.

Within tendons and ligaments are receptors called mechanoreceptors. These receptors respond to changes of stretch and load within the structures and send this information to the brain. The brain uses the information to maintain balance and position sense. Injuries to soft oft tissues such as ligaments and tendons also damage the mechanoreceptors resulting in altered position sense and balance.  If you have ever sprained your ankle you will have experienced this.  Normal balance can only return with training – this is how your physiotherapist can help. 

 

Rehabilitation and how can Physiotherapy help? 

To return to full function after an injury as soon as possible and reduce the risk of re-injury it is important that tendon and ligament injuries are fully rehabilitated including retraining balance.  Our physiotherapists will assess your injury, give you a diagnosis and prescribe a graduated treatment and management regime that gives you the correct information at the correct time.