I am sure that every one of us has by now gone through this experience… countless times! The aim of this short article is to make you understand your body’s aches and pains and how best to deal with them for a speedier recovery.

So, what is a Ligament?

Every joint in our body is surrounded by a capsule made of soft tissue and becomes thickened at points of stress to form ligaments. The ends of these ligaments then attach bone to bone and hold your joints in place.

But Why did I Sprain it?

Ligament sprains occur when a joint is twisted or bent backwards out of its normal range of movement. Any ligament can become sprained. The commonest we see are finger sprains, wrist sprains, ankle sprains and that blessed thumb sprain!

Probably your thumb was not in the correct position in the first place, or you weren’t blocking that mae geri right! Maybe your fist was not tight enough, or perhaps your foot wasn’t moving in the right direction.

So make sure you check your technique and ask your Seniors for advice. Remember, injuries happen because of incorrect technique so they will help you understand better by learning from your mistakes.

It Hurts!

It sure does! Symptoms occur suddenly at the time of injury and include rapid swelling, bruising, severe pain and inability to move the joint.

**When severe, sprains may be pain-free since pain nerve fibres might be completely cut, often accompanied by laxity of a joint.

So what can I do when I get a Sprain?

Use this Pnemonic: R.I.C.E. to help you.

Rest the joint, especially during the first 48hours, but don’t avoid all activity! You can still exercise other muscles that strengthen the support for your joint.

Ice or cold water should be applied immediately after injury for 15 to 20 minutes at least 4 times a day for the first 48 hours or until the swelling subsides.

*Avoid direct contact of ice with skin as this will cause burns.
*Avoid application of heat in the early stages as this will worsen the swelling and slow down your recovery.

Learn how to apply effective Compression bandages to any joint as good Compression will minimize swelling and also create soothing support while you mobilize your joint.

Elevate the joint sufficiently, above your heart level whenever possible, as this will minimize tissue swelling.

After the first few days, slowly start to use the injured area. You will see a gradual improvement in mobility. Pain relieving tablets such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may help ease the pain during recovery.


What about Physiotherapy?

A professional physiotherapist can help assess the severity of the injury and guide you through a full rehabilitation program consisting of mobility and strengthening exercises. Don’t forget to ask about Joint Taping!

But Why does it take long to recover?

Ligaments do not have a very good blood supply, so collagen in torn ligament fibres can take up to several months to rebuild and return to normal.

Should I wear the Gi?.. or Chair option perhaps?

No, Train! It is important that you are patient and understand the process of healing and rehabilitation of your joints. There is no special ‘joint’ that is required to be able to train. If you cannot use your left hand, you still have your Right hand, and two legs of course. And if you really cannot use your limbs, you have a brain available. You will be surprised at how many things you can learn just by watching. So keep Training! whilst acknowledging your limitations.

And lastly always remember to consult with your doctor and physiotherapist for more information!

Article was written for S.K.A. by Dr. Leanne Grech, M.D. Doctor of Medicine and Surgery, 3rd Dan Shotokan Karate – JKA, who is a medical doctor working at Mater Dei Hospital, currently specializing in Ophthalmology. She also has a special interest in Sports medicine and has working experience in Accident and Emergency, General practice and Orthopaedics.

P. Brukner, K. Khan; Clinical Sports Medicine, 3rd Edition; 2006; McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd, Australia. ISBN 9780074715208