What Are the Different Types of Ligament Disorders?

T. Carrier
T. Carrier
Woman wearing a splint for a torn ligament in her finger.
Woman wearing a splint for a torn ligament in her finger.

Ligaments are tough connective tissues that help join muscles or bones together. They also facilitate skeletal movement. Since these fibers are so frequently in use, they are subject to a great deal of stress and wearing, and several different types of ligament disorders can thus result. In less severe cases, a ligament may simply become sore or slightly strained or pulled. More serious problems include torn ligaments and ruptured ligaments. These latter cases may lead to immobility and necessitate more involved medical treatments.

Minor stress injuries are perhaps the most common form of ligament disorders. When an individual attempts to move a bone or muscle past its normal capacity, the ligaments are overstretched. This can create various degrees of damage to the tissues that comprise ligaments, as can repeated and prolonged stress to the same ligament. If the stretching is severe, it weakens the ligament and causes pain and swelling. This is known as a pulled ligament or a strained ligament.

The most severe ligament disorders occur when the ligament is lacerated or becomes detached from the bones or muscles to which it is connected. These injuries usually result from major, high-impact injuries that cause severe twisting and distortion of body limbs, such as those that happen in sporting contests or bad falls. A torn ligament or ruptured ligament may cause complete immobility in the affected area. Injuries of this nature often require long-term recovery and surgical intervention.

Even if ligaments are not stretched or torn, they are still susceptible to inflammation and bruising. A small amount of stress can accelerate the flow of blood to tendons. This can cause tendinitis, or enlargement and irritation of the ligaments. Any tissues in an inflammatory state for a prolonged period of time will become weaker. In addition to inflammation, ligaments can be bruised and become painful if they suffer an impact.

A ligament that joins structures in the female reproductive system — the broad ligament — is subject to dysfunction and ligament disorders as well. Infections, trauma, or a birth defect can cause this ligament to develop abnormally. If the structure of the broad ligament fails to develop properly, it may create conditions for entanglements in the intestinal tract. This is a serious condition that is accompanied by abdominal pain and vomiting; often surgical intervention is required. Other complications that can impact the broad ligament are lacerations and tumors.

Any serious ligament disorders can lead to long-term consequences. Once a ligament has been damaged, it is more vulnerable to future injury. Eventually, joint function may suffer, which will likely impact mobility to some degree.

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    • Woman wearing a splint for a torn ligament in her finger.
      Woman wearing a splint for a torn ligament in her finger.