Often mistakenly used interchangeably, it can be hard to differentiate between a tear or a rupture of a tendon, muscle, or ligament. However, it is important to understand that they are not the same but they do fall along a continuum of one another.
Tears or ruptures to tendons, muscles or ligaments can affect virtually any part of the body, but the most common injuries are anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and meniscus tears due to the force often placed on our knee joints.
Sudden impact, quickly stopping or starting, and abrupt movement to a joint are the most common culprits of a rupture or a tear.
With the help of diagnostic imaging, healthcare professionals diagnose these injuries according to a grading system regardless of whether it is a muscle, tendon, or ligament that has been affected. The grading scale can be classified based on the following:
Minor tearing with minimal if any shearing of fibers. Often considered a “stretch” and regularly has a recovery period of 4-6 weeks depending on the location. With proper strengthening, there are little complications after return from injury.
Moderate tearing associated with displacement and separation of fibers. This is a much more severe injury and is associated with a recovery that may last months depending on the extent. This grade may require surgery based on the location and amount of surrounding tissue available or lack thereof to be strengthened to support it.
This is a complete tear known as a rupture that is often seen as a very traumatic injury and almost always requires surgery in order to regain proper function, regardless of where it is and of what type of tissue. The recovery may take many months even if surgery is not elected.
Any type of tear can cause patients issues but a full rupture is much tougher to bounce back from in the long-term as a great deal of tissue needs to be repaired. Ruptures are often associated with obvious deformities (such as a tendon rolling up) and an audible pop while tears are more subtle and may only be associated with pain.
If you suspect that you have torn or ruptured a tendon or ligament, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. The physicians at South Shore Orthopedic are knowledgeable and experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of various traumatic injuries ranging from mild to severe. To schedule an appointment, call (781) 337-5555.