How many of us have pulled a muscle while playing sports? Sprained an ankle or wrist? I would reckon that a lot of us have.
In fact, sprains and strains are some of the most common and prevalent injuries in any activity which may involve a sudden change of momentum. Running, powerlifting, football, basketball, helping a friend move or being involved in a car accident are just a few that come to mind. The reality is that there are simply too many activities to list.
Now, before we continue this discussion any further, let’s establish a clear definition for sprain and strain in order to avoid confusion.
- A sprain is an injury of the ligament in which the ligament is over-stretched due to wrenching or twisting of the joint, often due to a sudden change of momentum.
- A strain is an injury of the muscle in which the muscle is torn as a result of over-stretching, often due to a sudden change of momentum. Strains are often referred to as “pulled muscles”.
The sudden change of momentum is important to both of the definitions because without it, strains and sprains are unlikely to occur. It’s hard to overstretch a muscle or a ligament otherwise.
Now that we have established the definitions for sprains/strains let’s talk prevention.
- Properly stretch prior to exercise. Stretching is a great way to increase flexibility thus reducing the risk of acquiring a sprain/strain (It’s important to note that improper stretching can easily lead to injury).
- Fatigued muscles increase the risk of muscle strain as a study conducted by the Duke University Medical Center indicates. [View Study Here] Hence, if your muscles are well-rested prior, there’s less chance of acquiring a strain.
- Improve overall stability and muscle strength of the core muscles used by your activity/work/sport. This will drastically reduce the risk of injury.
- Be careful and don’t overdo it. This is much more prevalent for sports injuries than anything else but it can be as easily applied to daily life or work as well. Overdoing “it” can and most likely will lead to injury. One must know their limits and not to overextend. More isn’t always better.
While prevention in itself is great, it is of little help if injury has occurred. And some injuries can’t be prevented, no matter how many precautions we take. Hence, it’s important to know what to do if the injury has indeed occurred.
In the case of a sprain or a strain, the first thing one should do is known as P.R.I.C.E.
Protect the injury. Once the injury has occurred, it’s important to prevent any further injury from occurring. That means to stop the activity that led to the injury, take the weight off and use padding around the area if needed.
Rest the injured body part, especially in the first 48 hours since the injury has occurred.
Ice the injured body part, 20 minutes at a time every 3-4 hours for the first 24-48 hours. Do not however ice the injury for longer than 20 minutes.
Compress the injury. Apply a bandage or a wrap to the area without cutting off the circulation, while maintaining a snug fit.
Elevate the sprain as best as possible. This helps control swelling, along with the ice. Best works if the sprain is elevated higher than the heart.
Most sprains/strains are not severe and will be fine in just a few days after resting. However, if any of the following symptoms occur or do not subside after a few days of rest or you are not sure of the severity of the injury, professional treatment should be sought:
-Loss of function (i.e. limb can’t be used)
-Area of the injury is noticeably tender
-Parts of the injured area is numb
-The area has been injured before
-The swelling doesn’t subside within the first couple days
Failure to seek treatment may lead to further injury or development of an unwanted related condition such as arthritis, joint instability or reoccurring sprains/strains.
Thus, if you believe you have sustained a sprain or a strain come by the Injury Clinic of Dallas Office in Richardson today and let our professional staff treat your injury to assure a fast and proper recovery. We’d be happy to help.