How to Strengthen Tendons and Ligaments

If you want your tendons and ligaments to stay healthy, try adding ligament strengthening foods to your diet. Several types of fish, hearty vegetables and delicious fruits make good choices. Bone broth has also been shown to improve joint health.

Gradually increase the pace as your body becomes more efficient at handling the demands of physical activity. (Image: Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Caiaimage/GettyImages)

Tendons: Essential Body Component

Chances are, you haven't given much thought to your body's moving parts. As you run through your daily routine, your muscles help your feet and legs to propel you forward. Your hands and arms allow you to write, grasp objects, cook meals and snacks and play the piano.

Generally speaking, your body runs like a well-oiled machine. Your tendons make your countless body movements possible, according to Harvard Medical School. Tendons are flexible cord-like tissue structures that link your muscles and bones together. When one of your joints moves, the muscles' energy is then transferred to the tendons. In turn, the tendons exert force on specific, adjacent bones.

In a perfect world, your tendons wouldn't experience undue stress and would never feel irritated or painful. They wouldn't ever become inflamed or injured, either. Ideally, you'd be able to knit, type, play racquetball, throw a baseball or knead bread all day long without suffering experiencing to the tendons.

Tendons: Injuries and Inflammation

In reality, though, these essential body parts can become inflamed or irritated for a number of reasons, explains the Cleveland Clinic. Tendinitis (or tendonitis) is the medical term for this condition.

Whether chronic or acute, this annoying ailment can result from an unexpected injury. However, tendinitis is usually caused by performing some type of repetitive activity or task, such as scrubbing, painting, carpentry and gardening. If you play sports like golf, tennis or skiing, you might be familiar with repetitive, motion-based tendinitis.

Unfortunately, tendinitis has several other risk factors. If you're over 40 years old, your tendons have probably lost some elasticity and might be prone to tearing. If you're dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, blood disorders or kidney disease, your muscles have likely become weaker. Poor posture along with certain medications may also contribute to tendinitis.

If you're unlucky enough to experience tendinitis, you might feel pain around the affected tendon. The pain can either develop gradually or occur suddenly. If left unaddressed, it may limit your flexibility and range of motion.

Tendon Injury Treatment Methods

If one of your tendons does become injured, you should expect a long period of recovery, notes the British Editorial Society of Bone & Joint Surgery in its July 2017 edition. Unfortunately, most medical treatment protocols available today haven't managed to significantly enhance tendon repair. In fact, surgery is often necessary, with nearly 30 percent of sufferers requiring surgical treatment.

Recently, researchers have become interested in non-standard treatment methods. However, a lack of understanding of the underlying mechanisms of tendon aging has discouraged any real progress in this area.

Scientists state that tendons contain a type of stem cells that have gained increased attention for their regenerative properties. Generally accepted tendon repair strategies involve the introduction of stem cells and other growth factors to the injured area.

Advanced animal-based tissue-engineering studies have produced encouraging results that may eventually be applied to humans. However, a lack of sufficient stem cells and usable scaffolding sites have greatly limited progress in this area. Still, researchers believe that these experimental treatments deserve to be explored further.

How to Strengthen Your Tendons

Naturally, you want to avoid painful tendon injuries that could put a crimp in your workouts and potentially affect your quality of life. To keep your tendons healthy and minimize the risk of a painful injury, St. Mary Medical Center recommends preparing your body for each exercise session.

First, consider your general physical condition and exercise capabilities. Whether you're returning to vigorous physical activity or you're just beginning a workout regimen, start slowly. Gradually increase the pace as your body becomes more efficient at handling the demands of physical activity.

Let's say you're ready to take on that Zumba class or high-energy elliptical workout. The Mayo Clinic suggests that you begin with a structured warmup session.

In a nutshell, it's necessary to improve your cardiovascular system's capacity by sending more blood to your muscles and increasing your body temperature. An effective warmup may reduce injury risk and decrease muscle soreness after a workout.

After your exercise session, notes St. Mary Medical Center, engage in some leisurely stretching exercises that will help keep muscle stiffness at bay. Also, supplement your aerobic workouts with a well-rounded muscle-strengthening program. Stronger muscles promote better joint integrity, and they're less susceptible to injuries.

To avoid unnecessary stress on your tendons (and your entire body), keep your weight in a healthy range. If you need to shed some pounds, combining well-rounded aerobic exercise with strength training should help you lose excess weight.

Structure and Function of Ligaments

Ligaments are connective tissue powerhouses that can take many forms, explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Rich in super-strong collagen fibers, they appear in different shapes and sizes throughout your body. These tissues can resemble string, bands of varied sizes, and even arches.

Versatile ligaments also serve varied purposes. Sometimes, they link two bones either by physically attaching themselves to the bones' ends or by stabilizing the adjacent joint. Either way, the bones are essentially held in place, so they can't assume an unnatural position that could lead to a dislocation.

In contrast, some ligaments aren't remotely connected to bones, but they're instead responsible for keeping the internal organs in their proper positions. For example, ligaments ensure that a woman's womb stays in its correct pelvic orientation.

Within the abdominal cavity, ligaments firmly hold the stomach, intestine and liver in their correct positions. Because these tissues can also contain delicate gland ducts or blood vessels, it's important that they remain stationary. This stability helps ensure that the fragile structures within don't twist, bend or tear.

Enjoy These Ligament-Strengthening Foods

Naturally, you want to keep your ligaments and tendons healthy. To help these and other connective tissues to grow and thrive, the National Spine Health Foundation recommends that you add collagen-rich foods to your diet. First, consume fish, such as salmon and mackerel, which are chock-full of valuable Omega-3 fatty acids.

Another great group of ligament-strengthening foods includes sulfur-containing cruciferous vegetables. Examples include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips and kale. Some allium-family vegetables, such as onions and garlic, also contain useful sulfur. Eggs, poultry and fish are other readily-accessible sulfur sources.

To obtain vitamin A, fill up on apricots, spinach, sweet potato and winter squash, among other fruits and vegetables. Source your vitamin C from delicious fruits like kiwi, orange, strawberries, lemon, guava, papaya and pineapple. Red and green peppers also contain vitamin C.

Manganese-rich foods support your tendons' and ligaments' integrity. These ligament-strengthening foods include whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and leafy green vegetables.

In addition to this veritable feast of plant-based foods, bone broth is gaining increased attention for its potential joint-health and bone-health benefits. Although it's possible to make bone broth from scraps, it's also available in some grocery stores.

Regardless of the source, bone broth is known to contain generous quantities of collagen. This beneficial substance also contains a variety of useful minerals and amino acids.

Bone broth is said to protect, improve and enhance your body's connective tissue health. However, these claims are subject to debate as numerous studies have shown that bone broth has little effect on collagen production and overall bone health. This finding is due to your body's inability to absorb most of the collagen contained in bone broth.

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