The inflammation and pain caused by a torn ligament usually prompt a visit to the doctor, but if you haven't consulted a medical professional, don't rely on supplements alone to heal a torn ligament. Supplements provide nutrients that support and speed up recovery, but torn ligaments need medical treatment to ensure optimal healing. Consult an orthopedic specialist to be sure your injury is properly diagnosed and treated.
Ligaments, Healing and Supplements
Ligaments are bands of tough, elastic connective tissue found at every joint. They connect the bones on either side of the joint, stabilize the joint and restrict motion. After a ligament is injured, the first stage of healing is inflammation, which lasts about seven days, reports OrthoBullets.
About 75 percent of a ligament consists of collagen, so healing depends on collagen production. New collagen synthesis begins after inflammation goes down and lasts for about 21 days. You can support recovery of a torn ligament by consuming the nutrients needed to rebuild collagen.
The best supplement may be one that contains a variety of nutrients targeted for ligament repair. But if you get most of the nutrients through your diet, the best supplement for you is the one that provides the specific nutrients your diet lacks.
Vitamin C Produces Collagen
Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients for collagen production. In fact it's essential because it must be present to build the bonds between strands of collagen fibers. This vitamin C-dependent step is responsible for collagen's strength, which means that lack of vitamin C results in abnormal healing and a weaker ligament.
Vitamin C also enhances the activity of white blood cells during the inflammation stage. These cells destroy bacteria and help activate other immune cells such as antibodies.
Vitamin A stimulates collagen production and may help it rebuild more quickly, reports Precision Nutrition. Zinc and iron support the immune system and contribute to collagen synthesis. The trace mineral copper works together with vitamin C to produce elastin, which gives ligaments the ability to stretch.
Your body also needs a regular supply of amino acids because collagen is a protein. While collagen primarily consists of three amino acids -- glycine, proline and hydroxyproline -- several others may boost healing, including arginine, ornithine and glutamine.
Talk to your doctor about whether you'll need to increase your protein intake and to determine whether amino acid supplements are necessary for your condition. A balanced diet that includes lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, soybeans and other beans will supply all the essential amino acids.
Note About Glucosamine
Some supplements that target ligament repair contain glucosamine sulfate. Glucosamine is naturally made in the body, where it directly or indirectly helps build tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone. It also provides a thick fluid that lubricates joints.
Glucosamine helps relieve pain caused by osteoarthritis and, over time, it may slow joint degeneration, reports MedlinePlus. However, it may not have much impact in the first important weeks of healing a torn ligament because it takes a month or more before you see any benefits from taking glucosamine supplements, according to Precision Nutrition.
Following the repair of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, researchers didn't find any difference in rehabilitation whether athletes took glucosamine sulfate or not, according to 2015 report in Research in Sports Medicine.
- Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies: Ligaments: A Source of Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Precision Nutrition: Strategies for Success: Nutritional Strategies for the Management of Sports Injuries
- World of Wounds: Nutrition and Wound Healing
- RCSB Protein Data Bank: Collagen
- MedlinePlus: Glucosamine Sulfate
- Alternative Medicine Review: The Role of Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondroitin Sulfates in the Treatment of Degenerative Joint Disease
- Research in Sports Medicine: Glucosamine Supplementation After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction in Athletes: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial
- OrthoBullets: Ligaments