Sprain and Strain Injuries

Sprain

Symptoms

Symptoms of sprains include pain ranging from mild to very severe that increases with direct pressure or movement of the injured area. Other symptoms include swelling ranging from mild to severe, bruising and redness. Often, you will not be able to use the affected body part immediately following the injury.

Causes

Sprains are usually the result of a traumatic injury, but they can also result from repetitive motions that place a great amount of stress on one joint. Over time there can be wear and tear and suddenly “the straw breaks the camel’s back.” Rolling an ankle or falling on an extended wrist can lead to ankle and wrist sprains, respectively. Intense sports where a person pushes their physical limits and pivots, bends and twists, can place a joint into high stress and lead to a sprain.

Background

Ligaments are the tough, elastic-like cords that attach one bone to another and aid in holding joints together. They offer a small amount of stretch/flexibility to allow joint movement. A sprain occurs when one or more of these ligaments are stretched beyond their capacity and tearing occurs. The sprain initiates an inflammatory response within the joint, often leading to swelling and pain. Sprains can be mild and only slightly stretch and damage the ligaments to severe where the ligament tears completely. Symptoms of a mild sprain usually subside within a few days and full healing occurs over several months. More severe sprains may require medical intervention or surgery, although this is rare. Sprains are often accompanied by strains, which are similar injuries occurring in muscles and tendons rather than ligaments. The most common joints to sprain are ankles and knees, but any joint held together by ligaments can be sprained.

sprained ankleAligned Medical Group’s Approach

After identifying a sprain injury, our physicians recommend PRICE, which is to protect, rest, ice, compress and elevate. Initial goals are to reduce swelling and allow the sprain to begin healing. For most sprains we prescribe a brace to support the affected area and protect it from further damage. We design a treatment plan aimed at reducing inflammation, increasing range of motion, and strengthening and stabilizing the joint. The treatment plan includes joint mobilization, manipulation, therapeutic stretching to increase range of motion, strengthening and stabilization exercises to strengthen the area, muscle stimulation and ice therapy. For more painful or moderate to severe sprains, we perform anesthetic or steroid injections to speed the recovery process.

Strains

Symptoms

Symptoms of strains include pain ranging from mild to very severe that increases with direct pressure or movement of the injured area. Other symptoms include mild to severe swelling, bruising and redness, and decreased mobility and stiffness of the injured area.

Causes

Strains can be the result of a traumatic injury or prolonged, repetitive motions. Poor posture can also lead to strains. Jumping, throwing or lifting a heavy object improperly (any motion that causes the muscle to powerfully and suddenly contract) can lead to muscle strains.

Background

Muscle is the contractile tissue that produces force and movement throughout the body, and aids in protecting the skeletal structure and internal organs. Tendons are the connective tissue that connects muscle to bone. A strain is an injury or tearing of a muscle or tendon. The term “pulled” is often used to represent a muscle strain (i.e., pulled hamstring). A strain occurs when the muscle or tendon is stretched beyond its capacity or takes on too heavy a load. Tears can occur in the muscle or tendon as a result. The severity of the strain depends on the degree of stretch or tearing. Mild strains include very little tearing of the muscle or tendon, whereas severe strains can completely rupture the muscle or tendon. Factors that increase the likelihood of a strain injury include warming up improperly before strenuous exercise, improper technique when performing strenuous activities, and performing strenuous activities when already fatigued. While symptoms typically reduce quickly, full healing takes up to 7 months following a strain.

Aligned Medical Group’s Approach

Our initial approach to a strain is to PRICE or protect, rest, ice, compress and elevate the affected area. We want to get movement into the tissue quickly as well, using gentle hands-on techniques and active stretching. This is performed with care so no further injury occurs; however, it is very important to do persistently so proper healing is maximized. Therapies, such as ice, muscle stimulation, cold laser and joint mobilization help too. We may do injections to reduce swelling and pain, and prescribe oral medication if needed. Most patients require a support brace to protect the injury and better enable you to resume your lifestyle with minimal pain. We progress our patients through stretching and rehabilitation to heal the injury quickly and develop conditioning so the injury is less likely to return.