What is a sprain and what are the symptoms?
A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament. Sprains occur most often in ankles, knees, or fingers, although any joint can be sprained. Sprains usually occur as a result of trauma (fall, twisting injury, or automobile accident). The ankle is injured most often because of its normal weakness, its exposed position and the stress it sustains in sports and other activities. Common sprain symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, instability, and loss of the ability to move and use the joint. These symptoms can vary in intensity, depending on the severity of the sprain. Sometimes a pop or tear can be felt at the time the injury happens.
What is a strain and what are the symptoms?
A strain is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon. Strains often occur in the back or hamstring muscles (at the back of the thigh). Strains are often caused by twisting, pulling or overuse injuries. Pulled muscle is another term commonly used for a strain. Common symptoms of a strain include pain, limited motion, muscle spasms, and muscle weakness. Localized swelling, cramping, or inflammation and loss of muscle function may also occur.
What is the treatment?
It is often difficult to differentiate sprains from strains. Visit a Take Care Health Provider for a complete examination of the injured area. He or she will ask questions about your symptoms and the activities that led to the injury in order to determine the treatment plan that is right for you. Treatment for a sprain or strain will depend on how mild or severe the injury is, and may require follow up with another healthcare provider if diagnostic x-rays, casting, bracing or surgery is necessary. RICE therapy – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – will help promote healing. Be sure to rest and reduce activities as needed. Apply a cold compress to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time at 2-hour intervals. After 24 hours, continue ice treatment or switch to heat. Compression may be done with an elastic wrap. Elevate the injured area on a pillow, above the heart level if possible, to help reduce swelling. Over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen may help relieve the pain.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.