How to Heal Ligaments through Diet and Supplementation
Did you know that the most common injury that involves a ligament is an ankle sprain? Ankle sprains involve the anterior talofibular ligament. It is estimated that around 2 million people sprain their ankles each year in the United States.
A sprained ligament can cause the following symptoms:
- Joint may feel loose or weak
- Unable to bear weight on the affected area
In this article, you will learn how a ligament can be injured, as well as the healing process that the ligament has to go through. We will also share some natural ways in which you can help heal your ligament.
What is a ligament?
A ligament is a band of tough elastic tissue known as fibrous connective tissues that attached bone to bone. Ligament is there to help hold a structure together and keep it stable. The aim is to give your joint support, as well as limit joint movement, to help prevent injury. You have ligaments around your ankles, knees, elbows, and shoulders, as well as other joints.
The most common ligament injuries come from playing sports or physical activities such as running. You can also injure the ligaments in accidents or from general wear and tear when you get older.
In the first 72 hours of getting the injury, you should:
- Ice the injury regularly to help with swelling and pain
- Use a brace or bandage to help keep the joint in place, as well as help with swelling
- Elevate the injury
In severe cases, a complete tear can occur. This injury requires surgery to knit the ligament back together. Once that has happened, rehabilitation and physical therapy will be needed as well.
Ligament healing phases
There are four phases in which a ligament heals. Keep in mind that the time frame we give for each phase is only a rule of thumb. Each injury is different and the time frame might be different.
- Cellularization (0-24/48 hours)
This is when the injury occurs in the joint.
- Acute inflammatory phase (0-2 weeks)
You might know this phase all too well. This is the swelling phase. You might notice that the area becomes discolored as well. What happens in this phase?
- The discoloration may be internal bleeding caused by a tear in the ligament and surrounding tissue.
- Your body sends healing factors and fluid to the injury. The fluid is there to create a water cast to help immobilize the injury. This is why you should rest the joint and not move for a bit so that your immune system can try to figure out how to fix the injury by itself.
- The repair: The proliferative, regenerative phase (4 days to a month)
This is the healing phase. You will know when this phase is over when:
- The injured area does not hurt and you no longer have a restricted range of motion
This phase is not over when:
- You still have pain, swelling and a restricted range of motion
- The injured area does not hurt and you no longer have a restricted range of motion
- The tissue remodeling phase (up to 2 years)
This is the final phase to repair your ligament. This is when your body creates new cells and knits the cells together to repair the band around the joint area that got injured.
The healing process
There are a few things that you can do to help your ligament heal. Keep in mind that you should not push your body too much. You need to understand that this can take a long time to heal. Be patient and stick to your healing journey, and you will heal with less risk of long term negative effects.
Promote blood flow
The better the blood flow is to the injured area, the easier the recovery process will be. You can practice active recovery, which is light cardio workouts or exercises for small amounts of time. Do not do any exercises without your medical professional’s knowledge.
The heat helps to increase blood flow, which will accelerate the healing process and relax muscle tension. As the injury happens, ice is used to help with swelling. Wait 24 hours before you start your heat therapy for the injury. Blood flow that is created by heat is vital for the fast recovery of your ligament.
Your physical therapist, chiropractor or other sports medicine provider can give you motion exercises that are specific to your injury. A study shows that movement promotes blood flow and is the most effective way to speed up ligament recovery. Muscle contractions help your body move fluidly. When you contract the muscle and move fluidly, your body will get rid of inflammatory waste from the affected area. This will allow the injury to have space to move fresh nutrients and fluid to the area to help it heal.
Physio will reduce the risk of re-injury because it helps to strengthen the joint and helps you become more aware of what you should and should not do when it comes to movement whilst you are healing.
Regular physiotherapy will help break down scar tissue in the area, help with inflammation, and ensure that you do not get a frozen joint during the healing process.
It is estimated that 2-5% of the population is affected by frozen shoulder at some point in their lives. It is more common in women than it is in men, and people with diabetes are more likely to develop frozen shoulder. Proper physical therapy and ligament rehabilitation can help prevent frozen shoulder and other joints.
Ligament healing time
Ligaments are not an easy tissue for your body to repair. The time it takes to repair the ligament will depend on the severity of the injury. It can take anywhere from 3-4 months for a minor ligament injury to heal. Some injuries can take up to 12 months or longer to heal.
Unfortunately, ligaments are tricky, so sometimes the ligament does not heal completely. This can cause you to lose range of motion and you might not be able to return to normal movement in that joint.
Natural ways to help heal ligaments
Before you go down the natural journey of healing your ligaments, you need to have your ligament checked by a medical professional. Once you know how severe the injury is, you can then form a treatment plan with a professional to ensure that you get the best results.
Below are a few natural ways in which you can help heal your ligaments and ensure better joint and tissue health. You will also need to use a few medical treatments such as physiotherapy, biokinetics and maybe a brace for a few weeks to help break down scar tissue and ensure that your ligament is healing properly.
Ligament healing foods/diet
There are a few foods that you can add to your diet that can help with your ligament recovery. These foods are:
- Whole grain
- Lean meats
- Green leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits
Protein is important because it is a building block for any tissues in your body. Protein can also help prevent inflammation.
Fruits and vegetables help your body produce collagen. You need collagen to help maintain the integrity of your bones, muscles, skin, and tendons.
Omega-3 is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Zinc- is needed for wound healing, tissue repair and growth. Studies show that not getting enough zinc from your diet can delay wound healing.
Calcium-rich foods help with muscle contraction as well as nerve signalling.
You want to avoid foods that are high in sugar, as sugar increases inflammation in the body. You also want to try to eat nutrient-rich foods and avoid empty calories. If you put on weight, it will add pressure onto the joint and make your recovery a bit harder.
Ligament healing supplements/vitamins
Vitamin D- This vitamin works well with calcium. Ensuring that you get enough Vitamin D will help you absorb calcium as well as increase the chance for a fast recovery after surgery. This study shows that Vitamin D can enhance strength recovery after an anterior cruciate ligament surgery.
Creatine- This supplement has become popular, and is commonly used to increase muscle mass and improve performance in different sports. Fun fact: your body produces about 1 gram of creatine a day. A study showed that creatine enhanced the gain of muscle mass and strength lost during a 2 week immobilization period.
Glucosamine- This is a natural substance that is found in the fluid that surrounds your joints. Studies show that using this supplement may help decrease joint pain. Another study also found that in healthy individuals, using 1-3 grams of glucosamine daily may help reduce joint deterioration.
Vitamin C– Vitamin C is good not only for boosting your immune system, but also for helping your body rebuild tissue after an injury. It also has natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with your recovery.
Ligament healing oils
There are a few essential oils that you can apply to your affected areas that may help heal the joint and ligament.
Lemongrass- Lemongrass has properties that help heal and regenerate tendons and ligaments.
Eucalyptus- This has a cooling effect on muscles and helps to reduce pain and inflammation.
Chamomile- This can help with pain and inflammation. The oil also helps to smooth muscle tension and reduce spasms.
Ligament injuries are very painful and can take a while before they heal and before you see improvement in the overall movement of the ligament, joint, and surrounding tissue.
- Do not push past the point of pain.
- Do not use any of the supplements or oils that we listed above until you get permission from a medical professional. Some oils and supplements might not be the best match for your specific injury.
- Drink plenty of water to help your body flush out the toxins and excess fluid around the affected area.
If you would like to find out more about how you can heal your body naturally and healthily, sign up for our email service.