Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: January 11, 2018
Your spine is comprised of 14 main ligaments that help protect your spine and aid in movement and stabilization in the area. When one or more of these ligaments are overstretched, they can become painful or even tear. Today, we take a closer look at what happens when you tear a spinal ligament, and how you can treat it.
Causes and Symptoms of Torn Spinal Ligaments
The ligaments in your spine are fibrous cords that connect bones and cartilage. They help to prevent injury by facilitating and restricting movement as necessary. For example, ligaments in your elbow and knee help prevent you from hyperextending the joint. Spine ligaments are a little different, because they don’t offer as much flexibility. When they are overstretched or tear, it is usually due to overexertion or acute force. Common activities that result in spinal ligament tears include contact sports, car accidents, improper lifting techniques, pregnancy or any activity that involves a lot of twisting or torquing on the spine.
Symptoms of a torn spinal ligament include:
- Decreased range of motion in the spine
- Muscle spasms
- Swelling or bruising
Diagnosis and Treatment of Spinal Ligament Injuries
Most spine specialists will be able to diagnose a spinal ligament tear by conducting a physical exam and asking the patient about their symptoms and what they were doing when the injury occurred. However, if pain is severe, the doctor may order an X-ray or MRI to confirm their diagnosis and check to see if vertebrae have shifted out of alignment.
Most spinal ligament injuries can be treated with conservative measures, even if the ligament is torn. Treatment centers around resting and protecting the area, and icing or compressing the area can also help. Anti-inflammatory medications can also help if inflammation is causing discomfort in the area. After a couple of days of rest, moderate exercise or physical therapy can help reduce stiffness and increase your range of motion in the area.
If these treatment options don’t help the pain resolve, or if symptoms get worse, reach out to your spine care professional. There’s a chance you may have a more serious ligament injury that would benefit from more hands-on treatment, and your doctor will determine if a minimally-invasive operation can correct the issue. That being said, surgery is rarely needed in standard ligament tears.