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How Long Does it Take to Heal a Torn Ligament?

Part of the recovery time may include physical therapy, stretching or exercise programs.
A torn ligament can take anywhere from two weeks to several months to heal, depending on other factors of the injury like the person's age and where the injury occurred.
Woman wearing a splint for a torn ligament in her finger.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 August 2014
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The recovery time for a torn ligament will vary according to several criteria. One's overall health will certainly play a part in torn ligament recovery time, as will a person's age, the severity of the injury, and the location of the injury. Healing time could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, and after healing has occurred, additional recovery time may be necessary in the form of physical therapy and regular exercise and stretching programs. A torn ligament generally takes more time to heal than a torn muscle, and re-injury can occur if one chooses to exercise too much or too early after the injury has occurred.

The severity of the torn ligament will have perhaps the biggest impact on recovery time. Small tears such as sprains — in which the tiny fibers that make up a ligament become slightly torn — can heal in just a few days or weeks without surgery. The RICE treatment is often used; RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The ligaments will heal on their own given enough time, and the injured person must be careful not to use the joint too soon after the injury has occurred to prevent re-injury.

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More severe torn ligament injuries are likely to require surgery; in this case, recovery time can become fairly protracted. Knee ligament injuries often take the most time to heal, since this joint is one of the most often used joints during regular activities such as walking or running. If surgery is necessary to treat a torn ligament, the injured person can expect several weeks to several months of healing time, particularly if the injury is in one of the joints of the leg. It is not uncommon for a person to go through up to six months of healing before the ligament has been fully repaired, and in some cases, a full recovery may not be possible. Torn ligament injuries can be severe enough that a person never recovers full mobility and strength.

The method of surgery will also have an impact on how long recovery will take. Doctors have used several methods of surgery to repair torn ligaments in the past, and while more modern techniques such as tissue grafts have been met with some success, recovery time can still be protracted. Very serious cases may require a total joint replacement; knee replacement surgeries can take up to a year to heal fully, while hip replacements generally take less time to heal.

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Discuss this Article

anon924765
Post 7

I tore my ACL knee ligament at age 18. I have had seven surgeries, with the final one being a full knee replacement at age 39.

Knee joints are complicated and finely balanced and unfortunately, major trauma can lead to incurable instability, which will ultimately lead to degenerative joint wear and arthritis.

browncoat
Post 6

@popcorn- I had a friend at school who managed to tear some ligaments in his knees, and, like a fool, he just kept on playing sports, even though he'd been told not to because he could aggravate the torn knee ligament symptoms. I think originally, the injury wasn't that bad and he could have recovered on his own, but he made them worse because he didn't listen to the doctor's advice.

I know it can be frustrating, but it's better in the long run if you take it completely easy. My friend had to get what was basically completely unnecessary surgery, wasting time and money (as well as being risky).

pleonasm
Post 5

@Clairdelune - Wow, I'd never thought of that as a possible injury. I don't know what I'd do if I injured my fingers like that and couldn't type for a few weeks. I type for work and I also like writing in my spare time, so it would be a large chunk of my day completely displaced.

I guess in that kind of situation, you'd have to either learn to type with your toes or get voice recognition software that could write for you.

I know I would get the torn ligament surgery ASAP if I had to.

Mae82
Post 4

@popcorn - Six weeks actually sounds about right if the injury to your cousin's knee ligament wasn't too severe. My boyfriend tore a ligament in his leg and was down closer to 8 weeks before he was able to really walk again, and he needed physical therapy.

I think a torn ligament in the leg is probably one of the worst common sports related injuries you can get. My boyfriend is probably going to be unable to return to football for at least the remaining part of the season. I guess he'll have to just live with his physical therapy and try and be more cautious in the future.

popcorn
Post 3

My cousin is a fairly active soccer player and she even coaches her kid's team. A while ago though she took a pretty hard tumble and messed up the ligaments in her knee. She was scheduled for surgery and recently had an operation on her knee.

Right now she is still recovering at home and it seems like it is taking forever. Her doctor said she'll probably have to stay off her leg for a minimum of 6 weeks. This seems really excessive to me, but I guess it does take awhile for the knee to heal. I will just have to keep helping my cousin while she hobbles on crutches and tries to keep off of her feet.

Clairdelune
Post 2

If you are like many workers today, you spend many hours on the computer, at the office and at home. Your job might involve assembly work, writing, or other repetitive motions with your hands.

If you do the same motions with your fingers and thumbs for many years, you might get a torn ligament in your finger or thumb.

Depending how badly damaged the ligament is, you might get away with wearing a brace. But so many people I know end up having to have surgery.

BoniJ
Post 1

Many athletes have ligament injuries to their knees. If the injury is serious, they will experience knee pain that affects their ability to get around easily until it is healed. Knee injuries of any kind are painful and slow to heal.

From my own experience, I know that knee injuries, in my case, cartilage problems, have affected my lifestyle. I'm limited in my ability to walk long distances, I have to ice my knee almost every day, wear a support sleeve, and sometimes take medication.

I'm also probably looking to a full knee replacement in the next ten years or less - yuk!

I envy those who happen to be young and in good health. Their knee ligament injuries will heal pretty fast. That is, if they don't jump back onto the playing field before they are completely healed.

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