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Keeping connected

As you bounce down the road, connectors are holding your truck together: bolts, screws, springs and welds. If one of these connectors breaks unnoticed, over time you may find yourself with a serious safety issue. Like your rig, your body is...

As you bounce down the road, connectors are holding your truck together: bolts, screws, springs and welds. If one of these connectors breaks unnoticed, over time you may find yourself with a serious safety issue.

Like your rig, your body is held together by connectors. If they break down unnoticed, life-changing health issues may result. Although you can’t lift your hood to take a look at what’s jostling loose inside, you can avoid future issues by becoming more aware of potential problems and then taking some preventive steps. The two main types of connective tissues holding your body together are tendons and ligaments. Both are soft, collagenous, connective tissues, but they function differently. Tendons connect muscle to bone, transmitting force.

Ligaments connect bone to bone, creating stability in joints; they also support internal organs, such as the bladder, uterus and diaphragm.

These tough white bands of protein-based collagen have a limited range of motion and are just slightly elastic.

Ligaments act as the shock absorbers for your skeleton.

You can maintain healthy ligaments by doing gentle, gradual strength training and drinking enough water to keep the tissues pliable.

Unfortunately, ligaments’ pliability can lead to injury. They can stretch in and out of position quickly. When they stretch enough to allow a joint to dislocate, that joint must be put back into place quickly. Since stretched ligaments return to their original length quickly, if they tighten back into an improper position you can end up with a serious chronic joint condition.

Ligaments need a constant supply of blood. So, when something interferes with this blood flow because of an injury, the healing process becomes much longer. Even so, most minor ligament injuries can simply be treated with light movement and stretching, but consult a physical therapist for specific concerns. Minor issues can be treated at home; serious issues require professional medical help.

These two recommended protocols for treating ligament injuries, RICE and MEAT, are the most popular and are based on different viewpoints. RICE is a more traditional approach.

Rest: Since ligament injuries won’t respond to treatment if they are torn or stretched, cutting down on the physical activity that uses the affected areas will allow them to recover. Begin resting the joint immediately wherever the ligament injury happens.

Ice: Applying ice will reduce swelling and also numb the pain. Apply ice immediately after the injury for the best results. Ice should be applied on a repetitive cycle of 20 minutes on, 40 minutes off for the first 48 hours after the injury.

Compression: Wrapping the injured joint with a tight bandage or tape will help prevent swelling between ice applications. Be careful not to wrap so tightly that you cut off blood circulation or prevent movement.

Elevation: Elevating the injured joint will limit swelling and fluid accumulation.

Although RICE has been recommended for the longest period of time, currently the MEAT protocol is being recommended more often for ligament and other soft-tissue injuries.

Movement: Movement creates heat and promotes circulation to the affected area, which increases the blood’s ability to deliver nutrients to the injured area and to remove damaged cells. Be careful, though, because too much movement too soon could aggravate your injury and lead to chronic long-term joint problems.

Exercise: Gentle range-of-motion exercises also improve circulation, while maintaining mobility.

Analgesics: Natural analgesics break down proteins and reduce swelling by keeping the extracellular liquids thin enough to easily transport nutrients and waste in and out of the injured area.

Treatment: These may include physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation. However, if your joint has not significantly improved in six weeks, you may need more aggressive treatment.

When choosing a treatment plan, consult your doctor. Occasionally surgery is necessary for a full recovery. Whether you follow the RICE or MEAT protocol, your ligament will need time to heal.

During this time, support your healing process through nutritious eating. Specific vitamins and minerals can help restore your ligament’s full strength and range of motion.

As usual, eat a well-balanced diet, including these specific nutrients: Vitamin C; zinc; and protein.

Treating your ligaments well will help keep you connected.

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