Sprains, strains and other injuries can be a painful and frustrating experience. While they can be super painful; treatment, management and prevention is often unclear. We are here to help! When diagnosing a sprain its important to understand the injury, how it happens, signs and symptoms along with treatment and prevention. In this blog post we will share best practices in managing sprains and strains. Additionally we will give you some tips on leveraging iCare Urgent Care for diagnosing and treating sprains.
What is a sprain?
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which are the tissues that connect bones together. The most common type of sprain occurs when you fall and land on an outstretched arm, causing the ligaments in your elbow to tear. However, any sudden force or movement that stretches or tears a ligament can cause a sprain.
What happens when you sprain a ligament?
When you sprain a ligament, the tissue is stretched beyond its normal range of motion and tears. This can cause pain, swelling and bruising. In severe cases, the joint may be unstable or feel as though it’s going to give out.
What causes a sprain?
The most common cause of a sprain is an abrupt change in direction while the ligament is under tension. This can occur when you make a sudden move, such as when you trip or fall.
Who is at risk for sprains?
Anyone can experience a sprain, but some people are more likely than others to experience one. Factors that increase your risk of sustaining a sprain include:
• Older age
• Participating in high-impact sports or activities
• Having weak muscles or ligaments
• Wearing shoes or sports equipment that don’t fit properly
Symptoms of a Sprain
The most common symptom of a sprain is pain. This can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the injury. Other symptoms include:
- Tenderness to touch
- Instability in the joint
- Inability to put weight on the affected limb
- Muscle spasms
Sprains can vary in severity, from a mild stretching of the ligament to a complete tear. The most serious type of sprain is a Grade III sprain, which is a complete rupture of the ligament. This type of injury can cause joint instability and may require surgery to repair.
Diagnosis & Testing
If you suspect you have a sprain, it’s important to see a doctor or other healthcare provider for an evaluation. They will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. They will also perform a physical examination of the affected area.
Imaging tests may also be ordered to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a fracture. X-rays are the most common type of imaging test used to diagnose a sprain. However, MRI or CT scans may also be ordered in some cases.
Sprain Management & Treatment
The goal of treatment for a sprain is to reduce pain and swelling and promote healing. Treatment options include:
- Rest: Avoiding activities that put stress on the affected joint is important to allow the ligament to heal.
- Ice: Applying ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day can help reduce swelling.
- Compression: Wearing an elastic compression bandage can help reduce swelling.
- Elevation: Keeping the affected limb elevated above the level of your heart can also help reduce swelling.
- Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), can help relieve pain. Your doctor may also prescribe stronger medication if needed.
- Physical therapy: In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended to help improve range of motion and strength.
Degrees of severity of a sprain or strain
There are three degrees, or grades, of severity for a sprain:
Grade I: A mild sprain that stretches or slightly tears the ligament. This is also called a first-degree sprain.
Grade II: A moderate sprain that partially tears the ligament. This is also called a second-degree sprain.
Grade III: A severe sprain that completely tears the ligament. This is also called a third-degree sprain.
How long does a sprain take to heal?
The time it takes for a sprain to heal depends on the severity of the injury. For a Grade I sprain, you can expect full recovery within a few days to weeks. With a Grade II or III sprain, recovery may take several weeks to months.
Sprain vs. Strain: What’s the Difference?
It’s common to hear the terms “sprain” and “strain” used interchangeably. However, these are two different types of injuries. A sprain is a stretching or tearing of a ligament, while a strain is a stretching or tearing of a muscle or tendon. Both injuries can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness.
How Are Sprains Prevented?
There are several things you can do to help prevent sprains, including:
- Warm up before participating in any physical activity.
- Stretch before and after exercise.
- Wear appropriate shoes and gear for your activity.
- Use proper form when participating in any physical activity.
- Avoiding high-risk activities, such as those that involve contact or jumping.
If you do experience a sprain, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for treatment and rehabilitation. This will help ensure a full recovery and help prevent further injury.
First aid for sprains or strains
If you think you or someone else may have a sprain or strain:
- Stop the activity that caused the injury.
- Rest the injured area and avoid putting weight on it.
- Apply ice to the injured area for 15-20 minutes every few hours.
- Wrap the injured area with an elastic compression bandage.
- Elevate the injured area above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- See a doctor or other healthcare provider for an evaluation.
If you think you or someone else may have a more serious injury, such as a fracture, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Sprain Treatment at iCare – Argyle, TX
At iCare Urgent Care we are well-equipped to treat most sprains and strains. With an on-site X-ray we provide a quick and accurate diagnosis of sprains, strains and other injuries. We accept most insurance providers, accepting both walk-ins and appointments.