People often get “sprains” and “strains” mixed up and confused with each other. Other than sounding alike, these two common musculoskeletal injuries often share the same symptoms.
Although sprains affect different soft tissues of the body as compared to strains, people often use similar conservative methods in treating these orthopedic injuries. Let’s talk about the differences and similarities of a strain vs. a sprain, and when to seek treatment.
What Are Sprains?
A sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments. Ligaments are the bands of fibrous tissue connecting bones to other bones at our joints. Exposing a ligament to excessive force or repetitive pressure makes them susceptible to sprains.
A sprain is caused by a sudden and awkward twisting of a joint. You can experience this when running or walking on uneven surfaces, or falling and landing on your wrist or hand. The most common type of sprain is a sprained ankle.
Doctors identify sprains based on the severity of the damage after evaluation with imaging scans, and they are distinguished as follows:
Grade 1 or Mild Sprain
A mild sprain signifies only a stretched ligament, and not a torn one. You will likely not go to the doctor for this type of minor sprain, because the pain usually responds to non-prescription over-the-counter pain relievers. However, if it does not, see a doctor right away.
Grade 2 or Moderate Sprain
This involves a partial tear in the ligament. It is characterized by prolonged pain and swelling of the affected area. It is a good idea to have this type of sprain evaluated by an orthopedist for precise treatment to help you heal as quickly as possible.
Grade 3 or Severe Sprain
This sprain is a complete tear of the affected ligament. It requires a brace, cast, or splint to immobilize the area for proper healing; your doctor may recommend surgery if the two torn ends are not in position to heal properly. The ends can be reconnected surgically.
What Are Strains?
A strain is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon. Tendons connect bones to muscles. As with sprains, accidents and strenuous movements may injure your tendons or muscles and cause a strain. The most common incidences of this injury are a torn hamstring (in the back of the upper leg) or a back muscle strain.
Generally, there are two kinds of strains:
- Acute strainsor sudden strains typically result from slipping, lifting a heavy object, or jumping. This is a high-impact injury.
- Chronic strainsinvolve activities entailing repetitive movements which eventually cause a strain. This is a repetitive-motion injury.
To prevent strains, practice warming up before physical activity and cooling down afterward in order to maintain flexibility. Muscles perform best when they are warm.
Treatment for Sprains and Strains
Even though these common injuries differ in affected areas, you may employ some similar treatments for both. The RICE method – rest, ice, compression, and elevation – is an effective technique to reduce swelling and alleviate pain while your injury heals. Additionally, you may also take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
When Should I See a Doctor?
See a doctor quickly if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Intensified pain and swelling
- Injury not healing with home treatment
- Shooting pains when walking or standing
- Numbness in the injured area
- Deformity in the injured area
The doctor may order an MRI scan or an X-ray. This will allow the physician to ascertain and diagnose the injury and prescribe the best treatment.
Orthopedic Doctors in Naples, FL
The best way to know how to treat your injury or pain is to visit a doctor, especially when home treatments fail to heal the injuries. With state-of-the-art-facilities and equipment, you can get an accurate and quick diagnosis from our experts here at the Joint Replacement Institute.
To schedule a consultation, contact our team today by calling us at (239) 261-2663 or book an appointment via our online form now. We look forward to helping you get back on track!