Doctor's Notes on Sprains and Strains
A sprain is an injury to the ligament (tissue that connects bone to bone) while a strain is an injury to muscle or tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). Signs and symptoms of sprains include
- instability of the joint and
- decreased range of motion of the joint.
Signs and symptoms strains include
- muscle spasm,
- muscle cramping,
- muscle weakness and bruising may occur.
Both injuries can be acute or chronic.
Sprains and strains share causes. Both can be the result of sudden twisting motion or trauma that results in overstretching ligaments, muscles and/or tendons. Chronic sprains and strains occur with overuse of ligaments, muscles and/or tendons. For example, athletes who train constantly and do not allow the body time to heal.
What are the treatments of sprains and strains?
Treat both with RICE therapy:
- Rest - stop activity that resulted in injury; don’t put weight or force onto injured area
- Ice - apply an ice pack to injury (wrapped in a towel) for about 20 minutes every 2-3 hours
- Compression - wrap elastic bandage around the injury
- Elevate - keep injured area raised above the level of your heart
RICE therapy may reduce bleeding and swelling of the area; most people treat strain and/or sprain pain with over-the-counter pain medicines. If you are not sure that the injury is severe, see a medical caregiver.
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Muscle StrainMuscle strain or muscle pull or even a muscle tear implies damage to a muscle or its attaching tendons. Symptoms and signs include swelling, bruising, pain, and weakness. Treatment may involve rest, ice, compression, and elevation in addition to taking anti-inflammatory medications.
Neck Strain (Sprain)The portion of the spine contained within the neck is referred to as the cervical spine. That's the site for injuries known as neck strain. Symptoms include pain and possible numbness, dizziness, stiffness, and tingling. Treatment may involve taking NSAIDs, getting bed rest, and applying heat to the area.
Sprained Ankle (Twisted)Sprained ankles are common sports injuries caused by extreme force, unnatural motion, or uneven ground. Sprained ankles often occur during exercise, but may also happen during everyday activities.
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Sprained WristA sprained wrist is a torn or stretched wrist ligament. Sprained wrist symptoms include warmth, redness, swelling, and pain. Treatment for a sprained wrist depends upon the grade of the sprain. Treatment may include rest, ice, compression, elevation, wearing a splint, brace, bandage, or wrap, and taking over-the-counter pain medications.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.