Sprains and strains are among the most common sports injuries we see here at the center but many folks use the terms
interchangeably and aren’t aware that they involve different parts of your body. Class is now in session. A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament while a strain is a stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon – Ligaments attach bone to bone and tendons attach bone to muscle.
When a sprain occurs, ligaments are stretched, torn, or, in severe cases, ruptured by the joint being knocked out of position by direct or indirect trauma. Sprains usually happen when a person twists, falls, or is struck in a way that forces the body out of its normal position and this most commonly occurs in the ankle. More than 25,000 individuals sprain an ankle each day in the United States.
While less intense than a sprain, strains can still be painful and annoying. Strains are caused by twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon and can occur suddenly or develop over time. Muscle damage can be in the form of a tear (either partially or completely) in the muscle fibers and tendons attached to the muscle. Pain and bruising usually accompany strains due to the tear damaging blood vessels and irritation to the nerve endings in the area.
Whether you have a sprain or a strain, the treatment options are very similar, and easily recalled if you can remember the acronym: P.R.I.C.E.
P – Protect. Splints, sleeves, crutches, and wraps all provide great injury armor.
R – Rest. Stay off the injury as much as possible, but don’t avoid all activity. It’s important that areas surrounding the injury still exercise to minimize deconditioning.
I – Ice. Apply ice as soon as possible and continue in fifteen minute intervals, four times a day, for at least 48 hours.
C – Compress. Wrap the area with a bandage or a neoprene sleeve.
E – Elevate. Whenever possible, elevate the limb above your heart to help prevent/limit swelling.
When to see a doctor
Sprains and strains on the mild side can easily be treated at home, however, you should come in to the center if you:
- Can’t move the affected joint at all.
- Have any numbness or loss of sensation in any part of the injured area.
- Can’t walk more than a few steps without significant pain.
- If the joint fails to improve within five to seven days. We’re not saying the pain should be gone, but it should at least be improving.