Strains and Sprains
Strains and Sprains
Strains and Sprains
What's the difference between a strain and a sprain?
Muscles contract and relax (almost like rubber bands) to help your body move. When you strain or "pull" a muscle, you've stretched the muscle tissue or the tendon that connects it to a nearby bone, too far. Strains usually happen in your neck, back, thigh, or calf muscles.
Sprains, on the other hand, happen to joints. Strong, elastic bands of tissue, called ligaments (say: lih-guh-mints), hold bones together in the joints. When you sprain your ankle, knee, wrist, or elbow, you've stretched or torn a ligament, the tough elastic tissue that connects the bones of the joint.
Both strains and sprains typically cause sharp, immediate pain. You may hear a pop or snap when you sprain a joint, which will be followed by swelling and sometimes bruising caused by ruptured blood vessels. The faster the swelling, the more severe the injury. If you feel intense pain or if you're unable to put any weight on an injured joint, you may have severed the ligament or fractured a bone and should see a doctor.
Even though both strains and sprains hurt a lot, strains (muscle or tendon tissues) are typically not as serious as sprains (ligaments of the joints). Because a strain is in the muscle, it may start to hurt immediately or several hours later. The area will be tender, stiff and may also become swollen and appear bruised. A sprain will probably start to hurt right away. Usually the injury will swell quickly, feel tender and may appear discolored. It may be hard to walk or move the injured part.
How do these injuries occur?
Most people pull muscles in their back or necks when they try to pick up something heavy without bending their knees and keeping their back straight. You can pull muscles in your legs when you push them too hard by breaking into a sprint, for instance, or squatting under a heavy load without warming up first. Ankle sprains usually occur when your ankle rolls outward and the ligament connecting the knobby part of the bone to the foot's outer surface gets stretched or torn. This happens most often when you're playing a sport that requires you to move quickly from side to side, such as tennis or basketball, but you can also turn your ankle while stepping off a curb, especially while carrying a weight that might block your line of sight, or walking on uneven terrain. You're most likely to sprain your knee by landing wrong after a jump or by wrenching it out of alignment during a fall. You might stretch or tear ligaments in your wrist, elbow or shoulder if you try to break a fall with an outstretched arm, forcing those joints to absorb your full weight. Strains and sprains also occur from the wear and tear of repetitive motion, especially with incorrect posture.
How can I avoid strains and sprains?
The simplest thing you can do is use the right posture, lifting techniques, and take breaks to avoid repetitive strains. Accompany correct posture with the right protection such as back, knee, ankle, wrist, and tennis elbow supports which tend to diffuse strains away from a small group of muscles and tissus; anti-vibration and torque gloves protect delicate hands and wrists; sturdy shoes; and ensure a good line of vision when carrying objects.
It's also crucial to warm up before physical work, just like before a workout. Light aerobic activity will literally heat up your muscles and ligaments, making them more pliable and less prone to tearing. You may also want to spend a few minutes stretching after a workout; this will improve the flexibility of your joints and muscles, which can get stiff from exertion. Over the long run, regular exercise and weight lifting can help you avoid strains and sprains by strengthening your muscles, keeping your joints limber, and improving your balance and coordination so that you're less likely to roll your ankle or take a fall. If you're just beginning an exercise program, start out slowly and increase the intensity as you build strength and endurance.
How Should You Care for Your Strain or Sprain?
It's very important to follow your doctor's instructions. When you get home, remember the word PRICE - it stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Protection - Immobilize or limit the movement of the area to encourage healing and to protect it from further injury. The use of neoprene or elastic wraps, slings, splints, crutches, or canes may be necessary.
Rest the injured part of the body as much as possible for 24 to 48 hours. Use crutches to take the weight off a hurt knee or ankle; support a sprained elbow or shoulder for a few days with a sling. Rest is essential to tissue healing.
Apply Ice packs, wrapped to protect against frostbite, to the injury for about 20 minutes at a time every 3 or 4 hours for the first 24 hours. This helps reduce pain, muscle spasm, and bring down swelling. Repeat at least three times a day or two. Limit the time of application to prevent frostbite. OccuNomix Neoprene Wraps with Dual Purpose Cold & Hot Gel Packs can be chilled and applied to serve this purpose.
Wear a neoprene or elastic Compression (say: cum-preh-shun) bandage or splint. Compression means to apply or press something together. When an injury is wrapped firmly, the pressure keeps excess fluid from accumulating around a sprained joint and helps keep the area from swelling as much.
Elevation, or raise, the injured part on pillows or something soft above the level of your heart. This is especially important at night to help prevent swelling.
Take any pain medications that have been ordered by your doctor such as anti- inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen, too.
After 24 hours, it's recommended to use Warm Compresses or a heating pad to soothe aching muscles. OccuNomix Neoprene Wraps with Dual Purpose Cold & Hot Packs can be heated and applied to effectively serve this purpose.
A strain takes about 1 week to completely heal. A bad sprain may take longer - as long as 3 to 4 weeks to heal, or sometimes even longer.