Strains and Sprains

October 18th, 2011

Sure we have all heard these terms before, but do you really know what they mean?  When to try self-care versus seeking care?  How to avoid these types of injuries in the first place?

By the end of this article you will.

Strains are a term used to designate the over stretching or tearing of muscle fibers and tendons, which are the cords of connective tissue that connect your muscles to your bones.  Areas like the low back, hamstrings and neck are common places for people to get strains.  Symptoms generally include pain and swelling in the muscle as well as spasm and decreased ability to move the muscle you have injured.

On the other side are sprains.  This term is reserved for when a ligament is over stretched or torn.  Ligaments are tough bands of connective tissue that join bone to bone, typically around any joint in your body.  They provide stability to your joints, and when injured can cause pain, swelling, bruising and limited joint movement.  Typically these injuries are accompanied by an audible or sensed “popping” within the joint.  The ankle is probably the most commonly sprained joint in the human body.

Most sprain / strains can be treated at home following the trusty PRICE protocol for 7-10 days after your injury.  If you don’t know what PRICE stands for it goes as follows:

Protect – This refers to the use of some sort of brace, sling or padding to protect the injured joint from further insult.

Rest – Complete rest should be used sparingly as prolonged immobilization of injured joints has been shown to delay healing and cause long term problems.  Relative rest, which includes gentle pain free stretching and range of motion exercise tends to be more helpful.

Ice – Icing the affected tissues helps to promote healing as well as decrease pain.  It should be applied for no more than 20 minutes at a time with at least one hour between applications.

Compress – Compression of the injured area can be easily achieved with an ace bandage.  They should be wrapped towards your heart to prevent pooling of fluids and not so tight that they cut off circulation.

Elevate – make sure to keep the limb elevated above the level of your heart to encourage draining from the area.

Be sure to seek attention from a healthcare provider if you have excessive swelling or brusing, are unable to bear weight on the affected joint for 4 steps, cannot move the affected joint, develop numbness in the area around the injury or notice any red streaking coming away from the injured area as this can be a sign of infection.  These are signs and symptoms of more severe sprains that can sometimes require surgery to resolve the problem.

Mild to moderate sprains and strains respond very well to conservative care measures like chiropractic care and rehabilitation. If you are looking for a Denver area chiropractor then give us a call, or use the ACA’s find a doc page to locate a chiropractor near you.These interventions should be considered by anyone who is looking to heal faster and decrease their chances of re-injury and chronic pain.

The likelihood of sustaining these types of injuries can be decreased by making sure to stay hydrated, keeping your electrolytes balanced and increasing your intake of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E.  Remember to always be sure to contact a health care professional about dosing instructions and warnings about side effects and interactions before taking new supplements.

If you recently suffered a sprain or strain or deal with the pain from an old injury make sure to to get help soon to get better and avoid long term pain and disability!

Be well.