The human body has more than 900 ligaments that help connect bones, joints and organs and hold them in place. A ligament can be overstretched or torn, called a sprain. Sprains are a common injury, but you can take several steps to keep your ligaments healthier and safer.
Ligaments are bands of tissue that help connect bones, joints and organs and hold them in place.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Ligaments have several important jobs that help you move properly. They:
For example, your knee has four ligaments that keep it from moving side to side or backward. Ligaments also hold the uterus in place in a woman’s pelvis. Additionally, they connect the liver, intestine and stomach and hold them in place.
You have more than 900 ligaments throughout your body. Most are located in your arms and legs.
Ligaments are like cords made of connective tissue, elastic fibers that are somewhat stretchy, and collagen, a protein that binds tissues in animals.
Ligaments come in different shapes and sizes. Most look like ropes, cords or bands. Some are thin, like a piece of string, but others are wider. Some are even shaped in an arch. They can be pink, yellow or white.
A ligament can be stretched or torn. This injury is called a sprain. It occurs when a ligament is forced to move in the wrong direction or stretches too far. Sprains often happen during a sudden fall, twist or impact.
Ligament injuries are common, especially in the:
For example, if you step on a sidewalk curb the wrong way, you may twist and sprain your ankle. If you fall but catch yourself on an outstretched hand, you can injure the ligaments in your wrist. People sometimes injure ligaments from impact during a car or bike accident.
If you injure a ligament, symptoms may include:
A healthcare provider will grade your sprain by how severe it is and what symptoms you have:
If you think you have a sprain or torn ligament, a healthcare provider may:
Treatments for ligament injuries vary greatly, depending on:
Treatment may range from:
Not all ligament injuries can be prevented, but you can take steps to keep your ligaments safer, especially during exercise:
As you age, your ligaments can weaken and become more likely to be injured. You can help keep your ligaments healthy by walking and exercising more — and sitting less.
Eating certain nutrients can also help:
You should talk to a healthcare provider if you have:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Ligaments are bands of tissue that help hold bones, joints and organs in place. You can take several steps to protect your ligaments. However, ligament sprains are very common, especially in the ankle, knee, wrist, back and neck. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help you avoid worsening problems and live a fuller life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/06/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.