Tendon vs. Ligament: What is the difference between Tendon and Ligament?

Tendon vs. Ligament: Discover their Differences and Similarities, as well as answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ).
Tendon vs. Ligament: Differences and Similarities

Tendon vs. Ligament: Both a tendon and a ligament are bands of connective tissue stirring the confusion. The most significant difference between tendon and ligament lies in their function. While a tendon helps our bones to move by connecting muscles to bones, a ligament helps to keep them stable by connecting the bones.

FunctionMuscles to Bones / Bones to Bones
ElasticityTough / More Elastic
ColorWhite / Yellow
SimilaritiesAre Connective Tissues

Understanding tendon vs. ligament definitions in detail

What is Tendon?

A tendon is a fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones or other structures like eyeballs. 

What is Ligament?

A ligament is a fibrous tissue that connects bones to other bones to keep the structure stable.

Considering the similarities between a tendon and a ligament for clarity

  • Both a tendon and a ligament are connective tissues.
  • They are made up of living cells.
  • They are densely formed fibrous tissues.
  • They are composed of a lot of collagen.
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Looking at the functions performed by tendons and ligaments

  • The elbow ligaments and tendons together support the functioning of your elbow joint. The elbow ligaments provide strength and stability to the elbow joint. Elbow tendons, on the other hand, helps in the rotational movement of your forearm.
  • The wrist tendons and ligaments add flexibility and strength to your hand. Wrist tendons help in hand movement, like making a fist or opening your hand. Wrist ligaments connect not only the wrist bones but also the bones of the forearm to the wrist bones.
  • The ankle ligaments and tendons provide adequate strength and range of motion to your ankle. Ankle ligaments are responsible for maintaining the stability of the ankle, while ankle tendons help in its movement.
  • The foot tendons and ligaments together form the structure and control the flexibility of your foot. Foot tendons control the foot movement and allow you to stand on your toes. Foot ligaments, on the other hand, help to maintain the foot’s arch and provide adequate strength for its movement.

How to heal tendons and ligaments faster?

Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamin C, protein, omega-3, calcium, and vitamin D will help to heal tendons and ligaments faster. Additionally, getting physical therapy from a professional will also speed up the process.

Differentiate between ligaments, tendons, and cartilage

Where ligaments and tendons are tissue connecting bones together or muscles to bones, respectively, cartilage is padding between the bones that acts as a cushion to protect our joints.

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What’s worse: torn ligaments or tendons?

Both torn ligaments and tendons are extremely painful, and the level of pain depends on the damage received by the affected part. However, torn tendons are generally worse than torn ligaments since you will feel continuous uneasiness even when the affected body part is kept at the resting stage. Additionally, the pain originating from the affected area tends to radiate to the surrounding areas and make things worse. For instance, talking about the injury to shoulder ligaments and tendons, both restrict your arm movement, but the pain from the torn tendon will extend to the whole arm even when your arm is at rest.

What helps tendons and ligaments heal faster?

Following a nutrient-rich diet and taking regular physical therapy helps tendons and ligaments heal faster.

How does a torn ligament feel?

A torn ligament is severely painful and discomforting. Additionally, the affected area might produce some heat, a cracking noise, inflammation, and might make it difficult for you to put weight or pressure on it.

What’s the worst ligament to tear?

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is probably the worst ligament to tear. It is located in the middle of our knee and helps in controlling the movement of our lower leg. An ACL tear is extremely painful and requires a surgical repair demanding nine months of rehabilitation after surgery.

Do tendons ever fully heal?

Tendons once torn are never the same as before. Though the tearings will heal with time, the tissues remain prone to damage and injury as they become weak permanently. 

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What vitamins should be taken for healthy tendons and ligaments?

Vitamin A, C, and D are good for the upkeep of your tendons and ligaments. 

How long does ligament damage take to heal? 

It will take around three to eight weeks for mild ligament damage to heal. Severe damage can, however, take a few months for proper healing.

What is the difference between ligaments and tendons?

JobIt connects your bones to the skeletal muscles.It connects bones to bones.
ElasticityIt is less elastic and tough.It is more elastic than a tendon.
ColorIt is white.It is yellow.
Presence of fibroblastsIts fibroblasts are present in a continuous row.Its fibroblasts are scattered all over.
Collagen contentIt contains more collagen.It contains less collagen.
Blood supplyIt receives comparatively more blood.It receives comparatively lesser blood.
ProteoglycanIt has lower proteoglycan content.It has comparatively higher proteoglycan content.
Arrangement of fibersFibers are arranged in parallel bundles in a tendon.Fibers are not arranged in parallel bundles in a ligament.

Understanding the role of various ligaments and tendons in our body

Role of knee ligaments and tendons 

Knee ligaments play the role of connecting the knee bones to provide stability to our knees. Knee tendons, on the other hand, connect the leg muscles to the knee bones to help our knee joint in its movement.

Role of hand ligaments and tendons

Hand ligaments provide support to our wrist and prevent it from moving backward. The sideways movement of our fingers and thumb is also prevented by the ligaments. Hand tendons provide flexibility to our wrist, fingers, and thumb for efficient movement.

Comparison Chart

Tendon vs. Ligament: Discover their Differences and Similarities, as well as answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Comparison Video

Tendons vs. Ligaments – What’s the Difference?

What is more important – Tendon or Ligament?

Conclusion: Both tendons and ligaments are essential for the adequate functioning of our body parts. An injury to any of them will restrict the movement of the affected body part, refraining you from performing your daily activities. It is, therefore, important to take adequate rest, nutrients, and medication for proper recovery. 


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Alex Stantor
Alex Stantor

Alex Stantor is a Sorbonne University (Paris, France) graduate in Philosophy and Data Analysis. Currently, he is an Author and Researcher at Difference 101, he writes articles/blog posts on topics such as "thinking differently" and "the importance of difference". Alex is a passionate advocate of diversity in the workplace and in companies, and diversity and inclusion in corporate communications. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

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