Ligament: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Ligament Definition and Meaning

Ligaments are short bands of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connect two bones or hold together a joint. Ligaments are made primarily of collagen fibers and are essential for stabilizing joints and enabling a range of motions within the body.

You use your ligaments more than you might even realize, like every time you use your knee joint to walk up and down stairs, your elbow joint to lift groceries, or your wrist joint as you maneuver your hands to text on your phone. They can stretch to some extent but are generally less elastic than tendons.  

Ligament Examples

Everywhere two bones connect, you’ll find ligaments. There are more than 900 ligaments throughout the body. They’re critical for proper joint function. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee, for example, is vital for stabilizing the knee joint. Ligaments in the spine help maintain an upright position. Ligaments in your elbow or ankle, for instance, are critical when you extend your arm to reach for something or take a single step. 

Ligament vs. Tendon

While tendons and ligaments share some similarities, they serve different functions in the body.  Tendons are designed to connect muscle to bone, aiding in motion. Ligaments connect bone to bone. They maintain joint stability but aren’t directly involved in motion. Tendons are generally more elastic than ligaments, permitting a greater range of motion. Ligaments are more rigid, providing joint stability. You can remember the difference between ligaments and tendons if you think: "Ligaments for Like to Like [bone to bone], Tendons for Two Types [bone to muscle]."

Common Ligament Injuries and Conditions

Your ligaments play a key role in your body’s daily function and mobility. Ligaments are designed to support your joints and keep your bones aligned, to avoid things like a dislocation or a sprain. Sometimes ligaments can get irritated when you do more activity than your body is prepared to handle, or if you experience an injury. Sprains can occur when you’re exercising or in the course of everyday life, like if you trip and sprain your ankle. Ligament injuries can cause pain, swelling, and decreased range of motion.

Ligaments: A Hinge Health Perspective

While any sort of ligament injury can be upsetting, know this: Ligaments are resilient bands of connective tissue and they’re designed to bounce back from stress. Still, it’s natural to feel hesitant to bear weight on a sprained ligament, like at your knee or wrist, but gentle exercise and movement are actually needed to maintain range of motion in the affected joint. 

Working with a physical therapist if necessary and doing regular exercises and stretches helps your body get stronger and more adaptable. At Hinge Health, we say all the time that movement is medicine for your musculoskeletal health. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. What are Ligaments? July 26, 2018. National Library of Medicine; 

  2. Vorvick, L. July 25, 2022. Tendon vs. Ligament. MedlinePlus. 

Related Terms