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How to Heal Injured Ligaments

Ligaments, the fibrous tissue connecting two adjoining bones at a joint, may heal in as little as six weeks. However, serious ligament injuries may never fully heal, explains Heath Brown, a physical therapist for Rehabilitation Today in Bradford, Pennsylvania, due to the limited blood supply to ligaments. Treatment of an injured ligament depends on the severity of the injury. Consult your physician to determine the best form of treatment for your injury.

RICE Protocol

  1. Follow the RICE protocol -- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation -- immediately following an injury. Begin with resting the joint where the ligament injury occurred, allowing the inflammation caused by the injury to decrease.

  2. Apply ice on a repetitive cycle of 20 minutes on, 40 minutes off. This process helps decrease swelling and promotes healing during the first 48 hours after the injury. Help prevent a mess by placing the ice in a bag or towel prior to application.

  3. Wrap the injured joint with a tight bandage or tape to help prevent swelling between ice applications. Do not wrap so tight that you cut off blood circulation or prevent movement.

  4. Elevate the injured joint to limit swelling and fluid accumulation.

Ongoing Care

  1. Move your injured joint through its normal range of motion. Depending on the joint, this may include raising, lowering, bending, straightening, rolling, pivoting, or moving an extremity away from or toward your body’s midline.

  2. Hold weights or strap on weights to add resistance to these movements once you gain back full range of motion without pain. This strengthens the muscles around the joint, decreasing the stress placed on the injured ligaments.

  3. Take a painkiller within 25 minutes of completing an exercise or movement routine to control any resulting pain or discomfort. Acetaminophen, naproxen or ibuprofen may help if you do not have access to prescription-strength medications. Only take medications as prescribed or described on the medication label.

  4. Get treatments such as massage, myofacial release, ultrasound or electrical stimulation. A physical therapist can recommend the best treatment option for your particular condition.

  5. Consume a balanced diet full of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, E, K and C. Your body needs these nutrients to build new ligament tissue and advance the healing process.

    Tip

    Follow the RICE protocol for the first 48 hours to six weeks after injury, depending on the injury’s severity.

    Warning

    Consult a doctor to make sure that your injury will respond to this treatment and to rule out a more serious injury. Exercising too soon after a ligament injury can make the injury worse. Some ligament injuries require surgery to properly heal. Performing the wrong exercises or forcing a joint beyond the point of slight discomfort during exercise can make your injury worse. Painkillers help control the pain, but should not entirely eliminate the pain. If you eliminate the pain, you cannot tell how far to push your joint.

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Things Needed

  • Painkillers
  • Weights
  • Bandage or medical tape

About the Author

Kimberly Wonderly has a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science and has worked as a personal trainer for six years. Wonderly has also taken many child development classes, while running a daycare out of her home for three years. She wrote for the "Rocket" at Slippery Rock University for two years while attending college.

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