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The difference between a strain and sprain is the location of the injury. A sprain is an injury to a ligament, while a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. There are varying degrees of sprains and strains.
Sprains and strains are extremely common injuries. Nearly half a million sprain and strain cases are reported in the US each year.
Sprains and strains are typically caused by the following:
The following factors may increase the risk of developing a sprain or strain:
The following diagnostic tests may be used by your doctor before arriving at a sprain/strain diagnosis:
The following may be signs of a sprain/strain:
The prognosis for sprains and strains depends largely on the location and the severity of the injury. If given proper treatment and rest, mild sprains and strains can heal in several days or weeks. More severe sprains/strains can take months or years to heal fully, especially if a patient returns to normal activity before the injury has entirely healed.
The following tips can help ease your pain and speed recovery of a sprain and/or strain injury:
RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). This method of treatment is recommended by doctors in nearly every sprain/strain case. The instruction for the RICE method is as follows:
Follow your doctor’s recommendations during treatment and recovery. Don’t return back to your normal activity level without first getting clearance. This may cause further damage.
Ease back into activity following your injury. An abrupt change in activity level can cause further injury.
Incorporate stretching and warm ups into your daily routine. Stretching each morning after you get out of bed can help keep your body limber and lessen the risk of another sprain/strain. Stretching and warming up the muscles is especially important before physical exercise.
Consider immobilization. Though braces and wraps can be bulky, don’t discount the help they can offer you in recovery. Immobilizing the injury will allow the area time to fully heal and will assure the proper alignment of the injured joint/area during recovery.
There are no screening methods in use for sprains and strains.
Some injuries are unavoidable. However, the following tips can help make sprains/strains less likely:
The R.I.C.E. method is the most common treatment method for grade I and II sprains and strains. The components of the RICE method are:
The RICE method is often combined with physical therapy to help gradually rehabilitate the injured area. Trained physical therapists will design the workout routine around each patient’s needs.
Pain medications (prescription or over-the-counter) may also help to ease pain during recovery. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the most commonly used pain killers in cases of sprains and strains. Popular NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen.
In rare, severe cases, surgical intervention may be required. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the following are the forms of surgery most often performed in association with sprains/strains:
The following alternative treatments are available for the treatment of sprains and strains:
**Be sure to consult your doctor before first taking any herbal supplements to avoid and potentially harmful drug interactions.
If you are caring for someone with a sprain or a strain, consider the following:
If you experience any of the symptoms of a sprain or strain, contact a doctor.
If you are undergoing treatment for a sprain or strain, contact your doctor if experience:
To find a physical therapist, visit here.
If you have been diagnosed with a sprain or strain, you may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
For more information on sprains and strains, visit:
For more information on strains, visit:
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