Strains and Sprains

Anyone can suffer from strains and sprains whether this is through sports or by simply doing normal activities. Injury can be caused by trauma (acute) or over use (chronic) to the body’s soft tissues: muscles, tendons or ligaments.

What is the difference between a strain and a sprain? (click to close)

A strain is an injury to the muscle or tendon. It occurs mainly in your back and hamstring, requires limited motion and can produce muscle spasms.

A sprain occurs as a result of overstretching or tearing of ligaments. It occurs mainly in the ankles and knees. Symptoms include pain, swelling and bruising with loss of movement.

Sprains and strains may be mild, moderate or severe depending on the degree of injury and unfortunately for some they may also occur simultaneously.

What are the symptoms of acute or chronic injury? (click to close)

Acute injury:

  • occurs while playing or exercising;
  • causes sudden severe pain;
  • is prone to swelling, tenderness;
  • makes it difficult to place weight on a limb
  • causes extreme limb weakness;
  • may mean that there is a bone out of place.

Chronic (over-use) injury:

  • occurs during prolonged or repetitive movements eg: tennis or long distance movements;
  • causes pain when playing or exercise;
  • can cause dull ache at rest periods;
  • is prone to swelling;
  • may cause loss of normal function.

What is the treatment for a strain or sprain? (click to close)

Follow the RICE technique

Start as soon as possible and continue for 48 hours

  • Rest: Rest and reduce regular activities, take weight off injured area
  • Ice: Ice pack (cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice in a towel) to injured area – for 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 8 times a day for first day
  • Compression: Compress an injured ankle, knee or wrist with an elasticised bandage but do not wrap too tightly. Loosen bandage if pain increases or numbness or swelling occurs.
  • Elevation: Elevate injured area on a pillow, at a level above the heart, to reduce swelling. After 72 hours ice therapy can be supplemented with heat therapy using heat packs to encourage further healing

Get advice on suitable medication

Consult your local Haven Pharmacist on the best anti-inflammatory and pain medication for use during your injury period. Treatment may include oral ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation or topical anti-inflammatories

What is the best type of rehabilitation? (click to close)

  • After the first two days the patient should gently begin to use the injured area
  • Start with gentle stretching after ice-pack treatment.
  • Physiotherapy sessions can be very effective in decreasing recovery time, offering strength and flexibility exercises as well as other treatments
  • Over time a gradual improvement should be seen
  • Amount of time for recovery depends on severity of injury
  • Restarting sports training should be done cautiously. Do not return to high intensity sports until full recovered.

How do you prevent injury? (click to close)

Warm up before any exercise or sport

  • This will help prepare your body for exercise
  • Engage all the large muscle groups when warming up
  • Begin with an easy effort and then build to moderate effect.
  • Continue this for about 10 minutes or until you feel warm.
  • People engaging in high intensity exercise may need longer
  • Follow with muscle stretching activities

Cool down after intense activity

  • — Stopping suddenly does not allow the body to fully recover and fatigue cause unwanted effects such as muscle cramp and soreness
  • Gradually stopping helps your body adapt to the change in pace
  • Stretch while your muscles are still warm
  • Letting your body cool slowly by replacing layers of clothes will help and allow your muscles gradually to return to normal
  • Use the correct gear and equipment at all times to avoid injury as well as proper fitting footwear
  • Before beginning new exercise activities it is best to get advice from the professionals on a suitable programme for you

When should you see a doctor following a sprain or strain? (click to close)

  • When you suffer from back pain during rest periods
  • When you have a suspected fracture
  • When the pain is not relieved by over the counter medicines- within seven days
  • If you have severe pain at night in the affected area
  • If you experience pain or pins and needles radiating to leg
  • When you suffer from pain in upper back that is not directly due to the strain
  • If you suffer from arthritis
Find out more about strains and sprains from your local Haven Pharmacist.