Ligaments: Important Sensory Organs

We previously wrote on the relationship between ligaments and chronic pain and mentioned their role as sensory organs. Understanding the role of ligaments as sensory organs explains why you must treat ligaments to cure chronic pain. We recently ran across a journal article outlining the importance of the sensory function of knee ligaments and the implications it has for treating knee injuries.1

Knee Ligaments

Let’s take the ligaments of the knee. If you or someone you know has ever had a knee injury, you’ve probably heard of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Or you may have heard of the medial cruciate ligament (MCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). These cruciate ligaments are the deepest ligaments of the knee and while they aren’t the most common knee injury, they are problematic because they don’t heal well. Now, what’s so interesting about these ligaments (and all ligaments in general) is that in addition to providing joint stability, they also serve as sensory organs. What does that mean? It means they have numerous ways of providing the central nervous system with information on knee position, joint movement, and joint damage. In other words, they communicate with the brain on the health of the joint. If something is wrong, they send a signal to the brain and the brain tells the body to help heal or compensate for any damage.1

Traditional Knee Injury Treatment

Traditionally, the sensory function of ligaments has been largely overlooked. In fact, ligaments have been viewed as merely passive “mechanical joint stabilizers.”1 In the case of knee surgery and total knee replacement, orthopedic surgeons are only concerned about the mechanical and structural role that ligaments play. In the case of torn knee ligaments, surgery is almost always recommended. There are various surgical techniques used for torn ligaments, but most have poor outcomes and involve removing or replacing parts of the ligament and therefore altering the sensory function of the ligament. This neglect of the sensory function of ligaments led the author of this study to state:“considering the importance of the sensory function of the joint structures, it would seem sensible to minimize the sensory damage of a joint whenever operative treatment is necessary” and later he states “. . .it seems reasonable to repair the injured ligament rather than substituting it with a graft.”1 How can a ligament be repaired? Through Prolotherapy.

Prolotherapy for Knee injuries

Thankfully, Prolotherapy has been shown to stimulate healing in torn cruciate ligaments. In a partial tear, Prolotherapy can be done exactly where the ACL attaches onto the tibia and femur, thereby stimulating the ligament on both ends to proliferate and strengthen. Prolotherapy is effective basically for all tendon, ligament, and meniscus injuries in the knee. It is also effective for articular cartilage injuries. The only injury where an athlete might need surgery is where there is a complete tear, like a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament. But almost every ligament injury is a partial tear or partial injury. So anyone that has knee pain from a ligament injury, tendon injury, meniscus injury, or articular cartilage injury, should get an evaluation for Prolotherapy especially if knee surgery was recommended.

1. Johansson, H., Sjölander, P. & Sojka, P. (1991). A Sensory Role for the Cruciate Ligaments.Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 268, 161-78. Retrieved from