Tendon and Ligament Injuries
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A sprain is an injury to the ligaments which are soft tissue structures that stabilize a joint. Ligaments are strong, flexible fibers that hold bones together. When a ligament is stretched too far or tears, the joint will become painful and swell. Sprains are caused when a joint is forced to move into an unnatural position. For example, "twisting" one's ankle causes a sprain to the ligaments around the ankle.
Tendons are the soft tissues that connect muscles to bone and allow joints to move. Overuse activities can cause inflammation of the tendon and this is called tendonitis. Tendons in the upper extremity can also be cut in deep lacerations.
Symptoms of a sprain or tendon injury include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Joint stiffness
- Discoloration of the skin, especially bruising
- Apply ice right away to reduce swelling. Wrap the ice in cloth. Do not place ice directly on the skin.
- Wrap a bandage around the affected area to limit movement. Wrap firmly, but not tightly. Use a splint if needed.
- Keep the swollen joint raised above your heart, even while sleeping.
- Rest the affected joint for several days.
- If cut or laceration is associated with the above symptoms, get emergent care and be evaluated by a physician.
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, or other pain relievers can help. DO NOT give aspirin to children.
Keep pressure off the injured area until the pain goes away. Most of the time, a mild sprain will heal in 7-10 days. It may take several weeks for pain to go away after a bad sprain. Your healthcare provider may recommend splints or braces. Occupational therapy can help you regain motion and strength of the injured area.
Go to the hospital right away or call 911 if:
- You think you have a broken bone.
- The joint appears out of position.
- You have a serious injury or severe pain.
- You hear a popping sound and have immediate problems using the joint.
Call your health care provider if:
- Swelling does not start to go away within 2 days.
- You have symptoms of infection, including red, warm, painful skin or a fever over 100°F.
- The pain does not go away after several weeks.