Strains and Sprains
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Active people occasionally have muscle and ligament injuries which cause
discomfort and pain. However, by understanding a few basic guidelines you
can help these stretching and exercise injuries heal more quickly.
How can you tell the difference between strains and sprains?
A strain is a stretching injury to a tendon or muscle brought about by overuse or stress.
A sprain, on the other hand, is a stretching injury to a ligament or joint capsule brought about by overuse or stress.
To treat either a strain or a sprain, do the following:
- Immobilize the painful area to prevent further stress or injury.
- Apply ice or a cold pack for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury. The sooner you apply cold to the injury the better.
Ice decreases the swelling and relieves pain. Wrap the ice in a towel or cloth to protect the skin; do not apply ice directly to the skin.
- Elevate the injured area to decrease swelling and throbbing.
- Protect the injury by using crutches and an elastic bandage wrap. If the injury is to the leg, do not bear weight on the injury
until instructed by your doctor.
- After the first 48 hours, soak the injured area in warm water, or use a heating pad. Heat increases blood flow, relaxes the muscles and helps
- Finally, ask your physician about appropriate medication.
The length of your disability depends on your age, physical condition, severity of the injury and previous injuries to the area. However, as a general rule, you should
feel some improvement within a few days and return to full activity in about ten days. And remember, by acting promptly you can affect how quickly and efficiently you recover.
- Swelling may cause the bandage to become too tight and cut off circulation. Beware of numbness or increased pain, discoloration of fingers, toes, hands and feet, or any body
part below the affected area. If bandage is too tight, remove it and leave it off until the discoloration,, numbness and pain disappear. Then, rewrap the part from the point farthest from the body using less pressure.
Example: wrap from the toes toward the ankle.
- If pain persists or if you have difficulty moving the injured area for 72 hours, call your physician.
- Special attention should be given to sprains and strains involving small children. An adult should examine the injury frequently for unusual pain, swelling an discoloration. Consult your
physician if the problem continues for too long.