What You Need to Know About Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains fall into a category known as soft-tissue injury. They involve the tearing or stretching of ligaments (sprains) and the stretching or tearing of muscles or tendons (strains). Both injuries are common among athletes or in the general population when physical exertion is overdone.



Types of Sprains

One common type of sprain occurs in the ankle. It’s easy to tear or stretch the ligament in that location because the ankle turns and twists easily. You can injury it just by walking. People often do this when hiking a trail and stepping on a rock larger than their foot can handle or by twisting it when ascending or descending a set of steps and misplacing the foot in the process. This injury is fairly easy to remedy.

To treat a sprain, give your ligaments a rest. If you sprained your ankle, for instance, put it on ice, wrap it in an ace bandage and elevate it. The idea is to apply pressure to the sprain to stabilize the foot and keep it above the heart.

More severe sprains may require surgery, but for minor sprains, use the ICE technique—Ice it, Compress it, and Elevate the sprain.



How to Treat a Strain

Treating a strain is not any different than treating a sprain. You want to put some ice on the strained muscle or tendon, compress it, and then elevate it.

Common muscle strains include the hamstring muscle (in the back of the knee and thigh) and the lower back. Long distance runners often pull a hamstring muscle. Other sports where heavy use of the leg could also involve a hamstring strain. These may include soccer, football, and kickboxing. Hockey players and wrestlers are also notorious for straining the hamstring.

People who play racquet sports like tennis and racquetball may be susceptible to elbow strains. Also, baseball pitchers often strain the elbow.

People tend to strain the lower back by not using proper lifting techniques. If you are doing any heavy lifting, do it with your legs, not your back and arms. That will go a long way to preventing a strain to the lower back, which can be painful.


The Best Prevention Against a Strain or Sprain

If you want to avoid the injury to begin with, you want to practice safe athletics and exercise. You should also maintain a healthy weight, eat a well-balanced diet, and keep your muscles strong. Keep stairways and other uneven walking areas free of clutter. Wear properly fitted shoes and replace them when they wear out. Before participating in sports, do some warm up exercises and stretch your muscles first. If you will be doing any running, do it on even surfaces.

If you experience a muscle strain or sprain, making a trip to the doctor or the ER can leave you feeling even more uncomfortable. Contact Sickday for a medical house call. We bring affordable, personalized, high-quality medical care right to your door.