Sprains and Strains
Many people use the term sprain to inaccurately describe many
different types of injuries to a joint. Medically, a sprain
means that a ligament tissue have been torn. Tearing of a
ligament can be partial or complete.
Ligaments are connective tissue that attach to and hold two bones
together. It is a tough tissue, but it is not very elastic.
Sudden stretching due to excessive bending or twisting can cause
an injury to the ligament.
Knees and ankles are the two joints most commonly sprained, but
any joint can be affected. Frequently, muscle strain will occur
at the same time as a sprain, especially with ankle sprains.
Strains and sprains, however, are not the same.
Symptoms of a sprain may include:
If the joint is out of alignment, a dislocation or fracture may
also have occurred.
|1. Pain (mild to severe) at the time of injury
|2. A "popping" sound may be heard
|3. Rapid discoloration of the skin
|4. Intensified pain with pressure or movement of the joint
|5. Swelling, often beginning within minutes of the injury|
Prevention of sprains primarily rests on limiting activities that
require sudden, unexpected changes in the use of a joint.
However, this advice may be too limiting, especially for people
who are very physically active or who play different sports.
Wearing shoes that fit well and that provide support to the
ankles may help prevent both knee and ankle sprains.
Wearing cleated shoes, however, may increase one's chance for
injury. The longer the cleats, the greater the risk.
Developing and maintaining good muscle tone and flexibility will
not only decrease the risk of sprains but also help prevent
Sprains can be very mild, requiring only simple measures for
recovery to take place. The main goals of these measures is to
prevent further injury and decrease pain. Pain is often caused by
Self-Help Treatment Measures Sometimes Include:
|1. Intermittent application of ice to the areas for the first 24
hours to 48 hours following the injury|
|2. Keeping the part elevated (above the level of the heart, if
possible) to decrease swelling|
|3. Minimizing use of the joint, if it causes any pain|
|4. Use of anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Ask your pharmacist to explain the benefits, risks
and costs of this option if you consider using medications.)
Sprains can also be very severe when there has been a lot of
tearing or rupture of a ligament. These injuries may require, in
addition to the above, immobilization of the joint.
Partial immobilization can be accomplished with the use of
splints and bandaging. However more complete immobilization may
require the use of a cast.
Ligaments have poor blood supply and therefore heal slowly. The
healing process continues long after the symptoms of the injury
have gone away.
The key to prevention of repeat injury and long-term problems is
returning slowly to activities that put extra stress on the
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