Sprains and Strains
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A STRAIN AND A SPRAIN?
Sprains and strains are usually minor injuries that often result from auto accidents, work related injuries, sports, exercise, or other physical activity. Sprains refer to an injury to a ligament (the connective tissue that links bones together at joints). Sprains happen most often in the ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist. Strains are tears in muscle tissue. They happen most often in the muscles that support the calf, thigh, groin, and shoulder. Sometimes sprains and strains can be severe, needing weeks of rehabilitation.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- Muscle stiffness, tenderness, or soreness
- Pain at the time of injury
You may have joint instability or disability if the injury is serious, involving a muscle or ligament tear.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Sprains generally happen when a twisting force is applied to a joint while it is bearing weight, which causes the ligament to stretch beyond its usual limit. Sprains tend to happen with sudden, unexpected movement (a fall or a twist). Muscle strains happen when the weight on a muscle is greater than the weakest part of the muscle can bear. Strains tend to happen during activities that require your muscles to stretch and bear weight at the same time. Some evidence suggests that being injured before or having limited flexibility contributes to strains. You are at risk for a sprain or strain if you do the following:
- Have been involved in an auto accident.
- Exercise without warming up properly.
- Use athletic equipment that does not fit properly.
- Participate in sports and activities that you are not conditioned for.
- Exercise when bones and muscles are fatigued.
- Have been injured at work.
Your health care provider may recommend that you treat the injury with RICE.
The term RICE refers to:
- Elevation of the injured area.
Use ice wrapped in a cloth or a towel - never apply ice directly to the skin. Apply RICE as needed over the first several days after your injury; this application should be no longer than 15 minutes at a time.
Ice reduces pain, bleeding, and inflammation. It may also reduce secondary damage to other parts of the joint.
Many people who visit chiropractors do so for sprain and strain injuries. In addition to joint manipulation, chiropractors use other treatments for sprains and strains, such as using ice, heat, ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, laser and trigger-point therapy. Chiropractors may also recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to aid recovery. One study found that a balance training program significantly reduced the risk of ankle sprains among high school soccer and basketball players.
In a study of people with ankle sprains, researchers compared chiropractic joint manipulation with an anti-inflammatory medication. They found that joint manipulation was as effective as the anti-inflammatory medication in improving pain and flexibility. Furthermore it was more effective than the medication in improving range of motion.
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