Sprains occur as a result of the stretching or tearing of a ligament, a fibrous band of connective tissue, which connects a bone to a bone. This structure is typically holding the two bones together at a joint. When excessive force is applied to a joint, such as sliding into a raised base in softball/baseball, planting a foot and rotating the knee or ankle too far in another direction, or stepping off a stair with the foot turned inward, you more often than not could get a sprain.
A strain is the result of the stretching or tearing of a tendon, also a fibrous band of connective tissue, but connects bone to muscle instead. This structure tends to be used in movement.
They are generally caused by overuse, as might be seen with an extreme work-out or sports drills. Vigorous exercise such as walking, running and being active in sports like baseball and basketball could lead to sprains. Often, individuals may step on the tip of rough surfaces that leads to bending of legs / feet. This leads to stretching of the suspensory ligament (a ligament that supports a body part), and the ankle. Other causes can be an awkward fall or car accident; other types of vehicular accidents; stretching of the muscles in the opposite direction, repetitive motions, heavy lifting, etc.
Symptoms of Sprains and Strains
Sprain symptoms include:
1. Swelling and pain
2. Pain in certain restricted areas
3. Tightness, discomforts and operation
4. Loss of a normal functioning limb
5. Decreased elasticity of the ligaments.
Strains have different signs and symptoms, such as:
1. Stiffness and pain
3. Bruising around the muscle.
Severity of Sprains
There are three (3) grades:
Grade I: Considered mild, it causes overstretching or slight tearing of the ligaments with no joint instability. A person in this grade usually experiences minimal pain, swelling, and little or no loss of functional ability. Bruising is absent or slight, and weight is usually able to be put on the affected joint.
Grade II: Is moderate with partial tearing of the ligament, bruising, moderate pain, and swelling. A person in this category would tend to have some difficulty putting weight on the affected joint, and some loss of function. An X-ray or MRI may be needed.
Grade III: This is severe, and results in a complete tear or rupture of a ligament. Pain, swelling, and bruising are usually severe too. The patient is unable to put weight on the joint. An X-ray more often than not is taken, to rule out a broken bone. This type of muscle sprain often requires immobilisation and possible surgery. It can also increase the risk of an athlete having future muscle sprains in that area.
Severity of Strains
The categories are similar manner to sprains:
Grade I: This is mild, with only some muscle fibres being damaged. Healing occurs within two to three weeks.
Grade II: Is moderate, and has more extensive damage to muscle fibres; however, the muscle is not completely ruptured. Patient may heal in three to six weeks time.
Grade III: A severe injury that completely ruptures a muscle. A surgical repair of the muscle would be required with a healing period of up to three months.
It varies depending on the severity, although the R.I.C.E therapy is a good start to recovery most of the time. In short, this involves: Resting, Icing for 20 minutes a few times per day, Compression (using wraps), and Elevation.
Massage can be helpful as well depending on the severity of the injury. It should, however, be done only after consultation with your doctor and/or an appropriately trained therapist.
Tips for sprains and strains include:
Warming-up before a work-out
Starting slow and working into a more rigorous routine
Wearing properly fitting shoes
Using a track or treadmill for running vs running on uneven surfaces such as grass
Taking it easy if you feel over-worked.
Check your doctor
As always, it is important to contact a physician for an injury such as this to rule out any torn tendons, ligaments and possible breaks or fractures. Ensure you do if these things start occurring:
You have severe pain and cannot put any weight on the injured joint.
The area over the injured joint or next to it is very tender when you touch it.
The injured area looks crooked or has lumps and bumps that you do not see on the uninjured joint.
You cannot move the injured joint.
You cannot walk more than four steps without significant pain.
Your limb buckles or gives way when you try to use the joint.
You have numbness in any part of the injured area.
You see redness or red streaks spreading out from the injury.
You injure an area that has been injured several times before.
You have pain, swelling, or redness over a bony part of your foot.
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