Ligament Damage and Back Pain
The purpose of ligaments is to connect bone to bone. They are made up of very tough and strong fibrous connective tissue that has very little ‘give’. In fact some are so strong that they have no mobility at all and inhibit certain movements.The study of the ligaments is called ‘desmology’.
Spinal LigamentsThere are 14 main spinal ligaments and their function is to provide structural stability to the spine. The primary spinal ligament is called the ‘ligamentum flavum’ and runs the length of the spine connecting vertebra to vertebra.
Causes of DamageThe main causes of damage to the spinal ligaments are the result of trauma or sudden and excessive movements. These movements can be from twisting, incorrect lifting technique or an awkward bend.
These actions can cause the ligaments to become over-stretched causing a strain or sprain. In severe injury, the ligament can actually tear.
Poor posture and not standing straight (favouring leaning on one leg more than the other), can also cause the lower spinal and pelvic ligaments to gradually become stretched which results in spinal deformation. As this happens over a long period of time, treatment options are limited.
Sports injuries are often the cause of ligament damage. Team sports where collisions occur can cause sudden ‘jolting’ of the vertebrae making the ligaments stretch to absorb the impact. Racket sports may require the person to over-stretch (such as during a serve), again causing the ligaments to stretch outside their normal capabilities.
Weight gain and pregnancy are other causes for ligament damage as the increase in the curvature of the lower back forces major adjustments in the spinal column, pulling the ligaments forward with the vertebrae.
Growing older may occasionally result in the ligaments hardening and depositing particles of calcium salts into the surrounding tissues (calcification). These deposits can build up and cause spinal stenosis (Narrowing of the spinal canal), which can be very painful.
Symptoms of DamageLigament damage can be very painful and can cause the sufferer to become limited in their movements because of the pain.A strained ligament can also cause pressure to the nerves and result in tingling feeling.
A regular sprain can be accompanied by some bruising or swelling, though in spinal ligament injuries this is not always noticed.
A damaged ligament can cause instability of the joint, particularly if the ligament has torn. Delayed treatment can result in a permanently weakened joint forcing exacerbated wear to the cartilage leading to osteoarthritis.
Treatment of Ligament DamageMany sufferers are tempted to immobilise themselves with bed rest. This was the treatment of choice many years ago, but experts have now discovered that this actually delays healing, and people should try to carry on as normally as possible with their everyday lives, but being careful not to over exert or move excessively.
Medications are usually anti-inflammatory drugs and if pain is severe, a prescribed analgesic may be required.If the ligament has torn, surgery may sometimes be necessary to repair the damage.
Prevention of DamageAs with any injury, there are certain measures that can be taken that could help prevent any further injuries.Learning correct lifting techniques is probably the most important.
Ensure your have the correct aids and suitable seating in your work place. Try to maintain a steady and healthy weight. Always warm-up properly before playing any sports. Maintaining a good level of overall health, taking regular exercise will help prevent injury, or speed up the recovery process if an injury does occur.
Ligament damage can occur very quickly and is a very common injury, taking some precautionary measures can help to avoid these types of injuries.