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Ligament Injuries and Back Pain

The ligaments of our body are tough, elastic connective tissues that connect bones to other bones. Ligaments are composed of fibrous tissue, and connect bones to other bones. Ligaments are typically found in moving bones that are connected by synovial joints. Ligaments are extremely tough, and may be stretched to some degree without damaging the tissue. However, ligaments may become loosened by continuous stretching caused by strain of overwork and poor postural habits that put an inordinate amount of pressure on weight-bearing joints supported by ligaments.

Some of the ligaments of the back include the Anterior longitudinal ligament that runs the length of the front of the spine (in front of the vertebral bodies), and the posterior longitudinal ligament that runs the length of the back of the spine (behind the vertebral bodies). Located between the spinous processes of the vertebrae are the interspinous ligaments. Other ligaments between the superior and inferior articular processes at the back of the spine are the Facet Capsulary Ligament, interspinous Ligament, and Supraspinous Ligament.



These ligaments that support for the back are have enough flexibility to support movement of the spine, but only to a point. These ligaments may become injured if they are overstretched to the point of injury. When ligaments are overstretched, causing pain, the subsequent injury is usually referred to as a sprain. Most people are probably familiar with knee and ankle sprains. A sprained ankle is usually caused by one of the ligaments at the side of the knee (the side away from the midline of our body) becoming sprained. A person may also suffer a back sprain when the overstretch one of the ligaments in their back, to the point of injury.

Typically, sprains of the back are not considered serious if they don't cause severe back pain or very limited mobility. If you are still able to work relatively comfortably and do chores around the house, your back sprain will resolve on its own. Second-degree and Third degree-sprains may require medical evaluation and correction.

A second-degree sprain involves mild tears in the fibers of the ligament, with only limited joint instability. Patients second degree sprains should be careful in avoiding activities that caused the injury.

A third-degree sprain involves the a more complete rupture of the affected ligament, severe inflammation, severe instability of the joint, and severe pain. Patients with third-degree sprains may be unable to lift with or put any weight on these affected joints. Medical intervention may me necessary for this type of injury to ensure that the ligament heals fully and correctly.

Ligament injuries and back pain may be associated with another. Ligament injuries may be difficult to diagnose because they have many of the same symptoms of other soft tissue injuries of the back, including referred pain.

While the tendons and muscles of the back have reflex mechanisms to prevent against overstretching, the ligaments of spinal ligaments may become loose or lax upon chronic overstretching. These ligaments, when stretched to the point of becoming lax, cause the joints they support to lose some of their stability. Back injuries caused by ligament sprains will heal more slowly upon being reinjured, and these same ligaments will be more likely to sprain again.