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Understanding Sprains and Strains

We all have used Sprains and Strains in an interchanging meaning without realising that these two stand for different problems and their symptoms, causes and risk factors, all are widely different.

So let us first begin to understand the gross difference between the two.

sprain refers to the stretching, tearing or any injury that happens to a ligament. A ligament is the tough band of fibrous tissue connecting two bones in your joints. Ankle is the most commonly affected by a sprain. Sprain usually affects areas where there are joints like ankles, wrists, knees, shoulders, or even the spine. Since ligaments do not have their own blood supply, they take a good amount of time to heal completely. Also, since ligaments are not very elastic in nature, even when the healing is complete, there would always be some instability associated with the injured area and you need to tread with caution.

Strain refers to stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon. Tendon is a fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. Strains usually happen in area abound with soft tissue or muscle like hamstring, the thigh or calf muscles, the abdomen.  

There may not be many distinguishing signs and symptoms that can be detected initially.

Sprains are often represented by pain and swelling at the site of sprain, followed by bruising and limited ability to move.  Similarly initial signs of strain include pain and swelling at the site of strain and muscular spams. It is only post confirmatory test that both can be differentiated.

Factors contribute to sprains and strains are:

  • Poor conditioning: Lack of exercise and dietary insufficiency can lead to muscle weakness.
  • Fatigue: fatigue is the primary cause why most of sprains and strains happen; tired muscles extend less support for your joints and may be soft spot for any injury.
  • Improper warm-up: Lack of stretching causes them. Stretching is a way of opening up joints and extending your range of motion.  Starting vigorous exercise without warm up may lead to severe injuries. They mainly occur while playing sports in form of Sports Injuries.

Treatment options

Treatment alternative for both the injuries are focused on control of the initial pain and swelling, avoiding any undue weight bearing on the injured areas followed by adequate rest. This will promote healing and will help in reducing the swelling and inflammation. All doctors initially prescribe the R.I.C.E. treatment: rest, ice, compression and elevation of the injured body part immediately following the injury. This reduces the impact of injury significantly. You may also be prescribed pain killer to relieve pain.

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