What Are Sprains and Strains?
strains are injuries to the body, often resulting from physical activity. These
injuries are common and can range from minor to severe, depending on the
incident. Most sprains and strains are minor and don’t require medical
Sprains occur at
joints and affect ligaments, which connect bone to bone. Strains affect muscles
or tendons, which connect muscle to bone. They most often occur at the calf,
thigh, or groin.
What Causes Sprains and Strains?
when a joint is twisted while bearing some weight. Many people are familiar
with rolling, twisting, or spraining an ankle. This is often caused by stepping
or falling off of a higher platform, like a sidewalk. Sprains can also occur at
the knee from pivoting, at the wrist from falls, and from accidents or
collisions. Sprains can occur at any joint and result in the ligaments becoming
stretched. A sprain can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, the
ligament can actually rupture, causing tissue damage and complete instability
of the joint.
caused when too much force is placed on a muscle. They often occur during
weight-bearing activities that stretch the muscle. Repetitive motions,
overusing a muscle, or working beyond your physical ability may cause a strain.
Strains are also known as pulled muscles and can range from mild, with minimal
tear, to severe, with significant tearing. Acute strains happen after a
one-time incident. Chronic strains are caused by repetitive activity.
Risk Factors of Sprains and Strains
You are more at
risk for sprains and strains if you:
- have a current or prior injury to the muscles or joints
- have limited flexibility
- engage in physical activity beyond your ability
- fail to properly warm up before strenuous physical
Symptoms of Sprains and Strains
usually noticeable when they occur. But sometimes a minor sprain will happen
without your noticing. The primary symptoms of sprains include limited
mobility, inflammation, pain, swelling, and bruising. You might hear a popping
noise at the time of injury.
often accompanied by pain, cramping, swelling, muscle spasms, and stiffness or
soreness in the muscle. As with sprains, you may be aware of the exact movement
or activity that created the strain, or you may notice symptoms only later.
Diagnosing Sprains and Strains
sprains and strains, your doctor will look at the impacted area and ask
questions about the injury or accident. Your doctor might take an X-ray of the
area to ensure that there are no broken or chipped bones. Usually, you will be
sent home with an at-home treatment and a care plan.
Treating Sprains and Strains
For these types
of injuries, you will need to follow the RICE treatment (rest, ice, compression,
and elevation). Over-the-counter pain medication can also be used to alleviate
pain and reduce inflammation. Topical creams and gels may also help decrease
pain and facilitate healing. For severe injuries, you might be required to wrap
the joint or wear a soft cast. A doctor may recommend physical therapy to
rehabilitate and strengthen the affected area.
options for sprains and strains include massage, chiropractic treatment, and acupuncture.
In rare cases, surgery may be required to repair damaged tissues.
Both sprains and
strains can limit physical ability until they heal. Be sure to use caution and protect
your body, especially the joints, until you are fully healed. Once the sprain
or strain is healed, return to physical activity carefully. Even though you
feel better, the tissues might not be completely healed or as stable as they
once were. Consider wrapping or wearing a brace when you resume activity, in
order to protect the injured area.