Recovering From a Torn Ligament: Dos and Don’ts

ripped ligament

Muscle injuries come with varying levels of pain, discomfort, and recovery times. If you are lucky enough to come out with your injury with only a mild sprain or strain, then you will probably recover in no time with proper care. But if you have a torn ligament, it may take several weeks for you to heal—and proper recovery strategies become all the more important.

What is a torn ligament?

A torn ligament is a severe type of sprain that occurs if a joint is twisted or becomes overstretched. The tear can occur in the ankle, knee, wrist, thumb, neck, or back; and may be complete or incomplete. An incomplete tear often feels like a severe strain. On the other hand, a total tear can cause as much pain as a broken bone and requires more intense care.

Sometimes, torn ligaments can cause permanent damage or lead to long-term effects. However, proper care and recovery can significantly reduce the risk.

Do’s and don’t of torn ligament recovery

Recovering from a torn ligament can be difficult, depending on the extent of the injury. Nevertheless, recovery becomes faster, easier, and less painful when you know what to do and what to avoid:

Do # 1: Go to all of your appointments

If you tear your joint, your doctor will likely endorse you for an MRI. If you don’t want to go to the hospital, you can opt for a private MRI scan service at a diagnostic clinic for a more convenient experience. In any case, go to all of your appointments, be it with your doctor, physical therapist, and other health care professionals. Missing even just one can slow down your recovery and may even make your injury worse.

Do # 2: Eat a healthy diet

Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy sources of protein. The vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables help speed up the recovery process, while protein helps repair your tissues. Similarly, avoid foods that are rich in salt, fat, and sugar, as these can increase inflammation and make your pain worse. If you are unsure about what to eat, talk to a licensed nutritionist.

Do # 3:  Perform recommended exercises

Your GP may recommend you work with a physical therapist to help you recover your full range of motion. After your PT sessions, your physical therapist may give you a set of exercises to continue at home. While it may not be comfortable nor pain-free to move your body with a torn ligament, movement is vital to healing your muscles and helping you regain motion.

Do # 4: Use a cold compress

Apply ice or a cold compress to the affected area (not heat!) to reduce swelling. Do this for about 10 to 20 minutes every time pain flares up, especially in the first one to three days after the injury.

Don’t # 1: Overuse pain medication

Whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription pain medication, do not take any more than what the label or your doctor recommends. Yes, recovering from a torn ligament can be extremely painful, but overusing medication does more harm than good. Apart from the negative side effects that it can bring, pain medication can also be addicting.

If your current medication or dosage is not working, talk to your doctor about increasing your dose or switching medications.

Don’t # 2: Engage in excessive physical activity

It’s a no-brainer that you should not move excessively while recovering from an injury, but sometimes, patients underestimate the severity of their condition and think they can handle a lot of movement. If your doctor tells you to avoid a higher level of physical activity, for now, follow their instructions.

At the same time, avoid putting pressure on your torn ligament until your doctor says it is okay to do so. Use your crutches, cane, and knee supports as recommended.

Don’t # 3:  Drink alcohol or smoke

Alcohol may help ease the pain, but it can increase swelling around injured tissue. On the other hand, the toxins from cigarette smoke can undermine ligament repair after an injury. That said, do not drink alcohol nor smoke while recovering from a torn ligament—or any other type of injury, for that matter. Instead, find other forms of stress relief, such as meditation, reading, light exercises, or listening to music.

Tearing your ligament is one of the most painful injuries there are, and the recovery time can span between a few weeks to a few months. If you want to speed up your recovery and make the process pain-free as possible, follow your doctor’s orders, eat healthy, and avoid doing anything that can undermine your recovery.

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