Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The first symptom of a sprain or strain injury is pain. Other symptoms, such as swelling and spasm, can take time (from minutes to hours) to develop.
Pain is always a symptom that indicates that there is something wrong with the body. It is the message to the brain that warns that a muscle or joint should be protected from further harm. In work, exercise, or sport, the pain may come on after a specific incident or it may gradually progress after many repetitions of a motion.
Swelling almost always occurs with injury, but it may take from minutes to hours to be noticed. Any time fibers of a ligament, muscle, or tendon are damaged, some bleeding occurs. The bleeding (such as bruising on the surface of the skin) may take time to be noticed.
Because of pain and swelling, the body starts to favor the injured part. This may cause the muscles that surround the injured area to go into spasm. Hard knots of muscle might be felt near the site of the injury.
The combination of pain, swelling, and spasm causes the body to further protect the injured part, which results in difficulty with use. Limping is a good example of the body trying to protect an injured leg.