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Sprains and strains are very common injuries. A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament (the bands of fibrous tissue that connect our bones at the joints).
A strain is also a stretch or tear, this time affecting the muscle itself or a tendon (the tissue that connect the muscles to the bones). Sprains usually happen when a person falls, twists, or is hit in a way that forces the body out of its normal position. Strains happen when a person twists or pulls a muscle or a tendon. The signs of most sprains or strains are very similar: pain and inflammation, and sometimes bruising, at the injured area. Depending on the severity of the sprain or strain, the pain may be mild, moderate, or severe.
Most sprains and strains can be treated at home, but if the swelling and pain is very severe, if you are unable to put weight on the injured area or are unable to move it, if it is not improving or seems to be getting worse, you should see your doctor for further evaluation. Even if the bone is not broken you may need a cast or crutches or other intervention.
Most sprains and strains can be treated at home with RICE therapy for the first 24-72 hours.
R: Rest. Try not to put weight on or lift with injured area for 24-28 hours.
I: Ice. Rest a bag of ice or cold bag of rice or peas, wrapped in a cloth, on the area for 10 minutes, take off for about 30 minutes then repply. Try to do this as often as u can in the first 24 hours. Don't leave the ice on too long, or apply ice directly to the skin.
C: Compression. Wrap or strap the area, this helps to limit the swelling.
E: Elevation. Place the injured area on a pillow and try to keep it up above the level of your heart. This also helps to reduce the swelling.
You can also take OTC meds to help with the pain - e.g. ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol/Calpol/Panadol).
Injuries like this can take a long time to heal, it may take 2 - 8 weeks to fully recover. Take it slow as you go back to regular activities, you don't want to re-injure the area. You definitely don't want to go back to sports or strenuous exercise while u are still in pain. If in doubt, please see your doctor.
Dr. Elsa Wilson
General Practice Physician and Life Coach.