How Do I Treat a Torn Ligament?

Torn ligaments, also called sprains, are caused when strands of tissue connecting a bone to a joint are stretched or twisted, causing the ligament to tear. The most common torn ligaments occur in the ankle, according to the Mayo Clinic. Treat a torn ligament by following the standard medical PRICE method---protect, rest, ice, compression and elevation.


1.        Protect the affected area from further injury by stabilizing the ligaments. Wrap it with an elastic medical bandage to immobilize the joint; use an ACE bandage, athletic tape or stiff gauze. Wear a brace or foot boot if recommended by a medical professional. When wrapping your foot do not wrap the toes; they need to be visible to check for circulation and numbness. Use crutches or a cane to help you walk. Remember to have crutches properly measured and adjusted for your height or they may not be effective.


2.       Rest the ligament by not putting pressure on the associated joint and bone. Avoid standing for long periods of time to give the torn ligament time to recuperate. Average recuperation time takes between six to eight weeks.


3.       Apply cold therapy using an ice bag or cold gel packet; the cold can decrease swelling, pain and discomfort associated with the torn ligament. Apply immediately after an injury for the most benefit. Ice therapy is effective for the first 24 to 72 hours. Do not put ice packs directly onto the skin; use a barrier, such as a towel, between skin and ice. Apply ice for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off every two to three hours. Do not use ice if you've been diagnosed with circulatory disorders such as peripheral artery disease, diabetes or decreased sensation in a limb unless you talk to a medical professional.


4.       Use a compression bandage to decrease the swelling. This is similar to the "protection" step---the area is wrapped with a medical dressing. The bandage must be tight enough to decrease swelling, but toes should not become numb or discolored. Wrap from the outmost portion of the extremity, the furthest from the heart, and move in. Use an elastic bandage for increased flexibility.


5.       Elevate the injured ligament as often as possible to decrease swelling and pooling of fluids. Prop it up on stacked pillows when you sleep at night. Use a bench or side table for additional support. Attempt to get the limb above the level of your heart for optimal elevation.


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