Sprains and Strains


About Sprains & Strains

Many of us attribute sprains and strains to athletes who get hurt during a game, or amateur athletes who don’t warm up properly. And while you could pull your hamstring playing soccer, it’s just as easy to injure yourself during everyday activities. You may sprain your ankle stepping off a curb, or strain your back lifting something heavy.

If pain and swelling has you reaching for an ice pack and ibuprofen – especially if your injury makes it hard to move – it may be time to see your doctor. While some sprains and strains can be treated at home, others need care by a medical professional. Your doctor can also rule out more serious injuries such as a ruptured tendon or fractured bone.

Understanding Sprains

A sprain is the medical term for a stretched or torn ligament. Your ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect your bones to other bones. They help stabilize and support your joints.

Sprains are often graded based on their severity:

  • Grade 1 (mild) sprains cause slight stretching and tiny tears in the ligament. You may have mild pain and swelling.
  • Grade 2 (moderate) sprains refer to partially torn ligaments with pain and swelling. You may feel abnormal looseness when you move the joint.
  • Grade 3 (severe) sprains result in a completely torn ligament. Your joint may feel unstable or you may be unable to move it.

Understanding Strains

Strains refer to an injured muscle or tendon. Your tendons are cords of tissue that connect your muscles to your bones. Like sprains, strains range in severity. A minor strain may cause slight stretching and tears in your muscle, with mild pain and swelling. A severe strain can cause a full tear across both a tendon and muscle. You may have pain, muscle spasms and weakness, or problems moving a joint.

Treatment for Sprains and Strains at Mercy

If you’re sidelined with a sprain or strain, you can rely on Mercy for pain relief and healing. Your treatment plan will depend on several factors, including the type and severity of your injury. It may include:

  • RICE - rest, ice, compression and elevation
  • Medication -  to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Brace - to support your injury while it heals
  • Orthopedic rehabilitation - to strengthen and stretch your muscles and ligaments, and improve joint range of motion
  • Surgery -  to repair torn ligaments or tendons

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