Sprains and Strains
to severe pain in the affected joint that worsens with movement
redness, or bruising around the affected joint.
severe cases, loss of mobility in the affected joint.
When To Call
a doctor if symptoms do not respond to self-care treatments.
a doctor if you feel a joint shift, especially if it is
accompanied by extreme pain, swelling, or loss of motion, or
if the area
turns black and blue.
What Is It?
A sprain refers to an injury to a ligamentone
of the tough, fibrous cords that act as tethers to hold the bones
together at the joint. Sprains occur at the joints when the adjacent
bones are twisted or pushed too far. The ligaments can stretch
and even tear, causing pain and loss of function. The most common
joints to experience sprains are the knee, ankle, shoulder, and
those in the fingers.
A strain refers to a muscle injury. As such, strains
usually occur away from the joint, in the muscle tissue. The
most commonly injured muscles are the hamstring at the back of
the thigh and the gastrocnemius, or calf muscle. Athletes commonly
suffer both sprains and strains.
What Causes It?
as a result of an injury, when the joint is subjected to more
physical force than it can withstand.
when a muscle is overstretched or overexerted, often from running
or lifting a weight.
may weaken the ligaments; recurrence is possible with only minor
with obesity and poor muscular conditioning.
exercises before undertaking any strenuous physical activity.
Engage in regular,
moderate exercise to keep muscles and joints strong and flexible.
and physical examination are needed.
X-rays of the
affected joint to rule out a bone fracture or other underlying
How To Treat It
for a sprain or strain can be easily remembered with the acronym
RICE, short for rest, ice, compression, and elevation:
Rest the injured area. Try not to move
or put pressure on the affected joint. A sling or splint may
be recommended to immobilize the joint and allow damaged ligaments
or muscles to heal.
Ice the affected area to reduce swelling.
Apply ice daily (but for no longer than 20 minutes at one time)
until the pain and swelling have resolved, and full motion
and function have returned.
Compress the joint by wrapping it in an
elasticized bandage to help reduce swelling and pain.
Elevate the joint to reduce swelling.
take over-the-counter pain relievers to treat minor pain. Your
doctor may prescribe stronger analgesics for more severe pain.
be required in severe cases to repair torn ligaments.
After the pain
has subsided, gently exercise the joint to regain strength and
mobility. A physician or physical therapist may help devise an
exercise program to aid in rehabilitation.
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