A Fibrous Query

Got a burning question here in NYC, one that I’m quite sure keeps many of my NYC podiatry patients up at night. No it’s not You Know Who versus What’s Her Name – that’s an easy one. Just hold your nose and vote for the one who is least annoying to listen to on the TV for the next 4-8 years. Not so helpful, huh? Ok how about, what’s the difference between a tendon and a ligament? Those who know the answer don’t spoil the fun for everyone else or I’ll give away the Game of Thrones ending.

In short, tendons connect muscle to bone, and ligaments connect bone to bone. For the long and boring answer, keep reading. Our bodies are comprised of all sorts of ingenious structures, as Michaelangelo or Da Vinci, or one of those sculptors once said in a much more brilliant way. And we have a system for motion which works quite well. The muscles in our body are responsible for motion and connect to the bones via tendons. As the muscle receives the command to contract, either through the conscious brain or subconscious nervous system, a series of interlocking fibers move in unison. Within the musculoskeletal system this would then create tension on a tendon, which is a sinewy firm structure that is anchored into the bone, and the bone would then move in the appropriate direction. Of course this all happens within a split second in many different ways throughout our lives. Ligaments have a similar structural makeup as tendons, but are thinner and designed to hold bones together within a joint, providing stability and necessary tension for motion.

So if one is to be injured, which is preferable? Well, my young patient, that’s a great question. And the answer is it depends on the type, location and mechanism of injury. A sprained ankle is generally a ligamentous injury, and in most cases will heal, albeit after a long period of rehabilitation. A minor strain of a tendon will heal very quickly with rest and perhaps a boot, brace or even some physical therapy, but a ruptured Achilles tendon is a devastating injury that in many cases requires surgical repair and a long period of rehabilitation. So like anything else, a minor injury will heal in a relatively straightforward manner, while a more severe injury can linger and require a lot longer rehabilitation period. And as I’ve said many times before, the body wants to heal, we just have to give it the tools to do so – tools that are readily available at your friendly local NYC podiatrist.

Well there you have it, in a nutshell. Can’t tell you who to vote for, but if tendon and ligaments are on the ballot, our small universe will be one highly educated and sure electorate.

See you in the office.

Ernest Isaacson