What are Sprains and Strains?
Though sprains & strains each affect different parts of the body, they are similar to one another in many ways. A sprain occurs due to injury to a ligament, while a strain happens when a tendon (muscle) is either overstretched or otherwise injured. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue which connect and hold together the bones in your joints and are most often injured in the wrists and ankles.
Muscles and tendons (fibrous tissues which connect muscles to bones) can be strained anywhere in the body, though they most often occur in the lower-back and hamstring.
Most sprains & strains are caused as a result of some form of injury—usually in the fingers, ankles, wrists, knees or feet. Though they can be made worse through certain forms of repetitive action, sprains & strains usually occur when someone falls, twists the wrong way, gets hit or lifts something heavy or with incorrect form. For these reasons, they are extremely common sports-related injuries that occur in both children and adults.
What are the Signs of Sprains & Strains?
Despite the fact that sprains & strains affect ligaments and muscles/tendons respectively, the symptoms of each are very similar to one another. Signs of injury include:
- Inability to move or put pressure on joint
- Feeling/hearing a “pop” at the time of injury
Symptoms associated with sprains & strains can range from mild to severe, typically depending upon how much a ligament or tendon/muscle has been torn or overstretched. In some cases, pain may be so severe as to suggest a fracture or break—medical attention is always necessary under these circumstances.
Diagnosing & Treating Sprains & Strains
Since untreated sprains & strains can lead to long-term joint pain and muscle weakness, all such injuries should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as they occur. Diagnosis revolves mainly around a physical exam, in which tenderness levels and range of motion tests can be used to determine whether the problem is a sprain or a strain. Unfortunately, X-rays can only provide useful information for diagnosing fractures and breaks—they cannot be used to diagnose sprains & strains.
Treating sprains & strains usually starts with RICE treatment (rest, ice, compression and elevation). For mild-to-moderate injuries, the combination of RICE principles with splinting/bracing is typically enough to begin the healing process. Severe injuries (including completely torn ligaments) may require surgery and physical therapy.
Despite what many people think, children are actually more prone to breaks and fractures than sprains & strains due to weaker growth plates than adults. While most sprains & strains heal quickly in children, overuse injuries are common in those who participate in sports and should be watched closely for recurrence.
Medications such as ibuprofen can be used to reduce pain and inflammation—avoid aspirin, which can cause potentially serious complications in children under the age of 18.
Heal Sprains & Strains with ConvenientMD!
There’s no getting around the fact that sprains & strains are painful, and if left untreated, they can go on to cause long-term problems. At ConvenientMD, our staff is highly experienced in treating sprains & strains from mild to serious injuries—we’ll have you back on your feet in no time.
Urgent Care Locations around NH, ME, and MA.
Don’t let sprains & strains cause you unnecessary discomfort! Just stop into any of our convenient urgent care locations in New Hampshire and Maine—you’ll never need to make an appointment ahead of time.