Ligament Sprains and Muscle Strains: BUSTING THE MYTH!!!

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Ligament Sprains and Muscle Strains  – BUSTING THE MYTH!!

And it might be boring folks but knowledge is power, and knowledge about your own body gives you so much power. I’m excited about writing this blog for everyone because I love the human body but I must keep in mind not everyone is like minded and I will try not to get too carried away. My chosen topic is joint sprains and muscle strains; i.e. tears to joint ligaments and muscle tissue!!!

Over my 16 years of being a physiotherapist I feel I’ve answered a lot of question; no silly ones just genuinely great questions, that I love answering but one that never gets too old is: “So I’ve just sprained my joint… I haven’t torn it?” Or “so I’ve just strained my hammy… I haven’t torn it?”

I’m here today to say YES – yes you have torn it!! So, if someone tells you, you have a sprain or strain, they are telling you that you have created damage to your tissue and in essence a tear. You may need to be out of sport or activity for an amount of time as the body recovers from the injury that it has sustained and you will have to do rehabilitation to make sure that injury doesn’t happen again.

The good news about this myth busting blog, is I’m here to give you guys the power; the secret to rehabilitating yourselves quicker – the ability to look inside your physiotherapist’s mind and see what’s ticking…..

Firstly, a brief anatomy lesson:

Ligaments attach bone to bone to provide stability to joints. Every joint has ligaments even your spine. Here’s a picture of an ankle showing the most commonly sprained ankle joint, the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL):

Muscles are your prime movers. There are two muscle systems in your body; a local and global (that’s a whole other blog!), but muscles attach to bone via a tendon. Here’s a picture of your hamstring. Three different muscles make up your hamstring, which all become tendons attaching to the bone.

When you sprain a joint (tear a ligament) or strain a muscle (tear muscle fibres), inflammation and trauma occurs immediately. When you tear a ligament or muscle, it doesn’t grow back…. Yes, that’s right we all expect our muscle system to repair itself with new muscle or new ligament, but instead, scar tissue gets laid down, which is just as good as muscle or ligament tissue if you do a proper rehabilitation from start to finish. Physiotherapy treatment and rehabilitation ensures that scar tissue gets laid down in the same pattern as the muscle.

Scar tissue is a tough inflexible fibrous tissue that binds itself around your damaged tissue in an effort from your body to put the fibres back together again. In essence, if you don’t treat that scar tissue formation with the respect it deserves, it could ultimately mean that you as the athlete can have a loss in flexibility, a potential weak spot within the soft tissue that can lead to re-injury over and over again, and lastly lead to a loss of strength and power.

Here are the keys to ensuring you never become that person that we have all heard about or from:

The athlete who: “I did my hammy and it’s never been the same since. I do it every season” (weak spot)


The athlete who: “I sprained my ankle years ago and now it’s my dodgy one” (loss of strength and power)

Key points to a full and complete recovery of a ligament sprain (tear) or muscle strain (tear) to ensure you have no weakness when returning to sport and activity and that you can achieve all your goals:

  1. RICER immediately the most important aspect of RICER in my eyes is compression so compress the area with tape or bandage and ice over the top
  2. Seek Physio (an Enhance Physiotherapist preferably) within the first 72 hours so your Physiotherapist can start working on clearing out the inflammation and start getting the scar tissue to lie itself down in a useful manner
  3. Rehab – you have got to do your rehab!!!! You have to stretch when it’s time to stretch; you have to strengthen when it’s time to strengthen; you have to do proprioception work and so on. A great Physiotherapist (i.e. an Enhance Physiotherapist) will lead you through this process to get you to 100% recovery and give you all the tools to make you stronger, faster and better than before
  4. Drink plenty of water in the rehab stage flush those toxins out
  5. Massage – a good sports massage (i.e. an Enhance Physiotherapy Massage Therapist) when the time is right in your rehab will help to break down scar tissue so it does not become your weakness

All of our amazing Physiotherapists, Exercise Physiologists and Massage Therapists at Enhance Physiotherapy are fully equipped to ensure you become stronger and better after an injury. We view everything as an opportunity to be a better version of yourself, not weakness.

By Bel Copeland

Bel works full time in our Applecross clinic. Call us or check online to book your Enhance experience today!

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