We are pretty sure that if you had a dollar every time you have heard, “I sprained my ankle,” or “My back is strained” you might have a nice little nest egg by now. The point is, sprains and strains are two of the most common injuries, and can happen at any age. They can happen during sports, at school, on the job, walking the dog, or even getting into the bathtub. While strains and sprains are sometimes avoidable, they are always uncomfortable.
Sprains and Strains: What is the Difference?
The words sprain and strain are often used interchangeably, but are very different ailments. Sprains are an injury to the ligaments, while strains are a problem of the muscle or tendon.
A sprain refers to the over stretching and or tearing of a ligament. A ligament is the fibrous band of connective tissue joining one end of a bone with another. They are important for supporting the body’s joints. For example, a ligament connects the knee with the lower leg, allowing people to walk and jog.
A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. The tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach the muscles to the bones. They provide the body stability and a range of motion. One of the most commonly mentioned is the Achilles tendon, connecting the calf to the heel.
Causes of Sprains and Strains:
Sprains are caused by direct or indirect trauma that overstretches the supporting ligaments. In some cases, the ligament may even rupture. Sprains can occur when a baseball player slides into a base, steps off an uneven surface, or falls on an outstretched arm.
Symptoms of a sprain may include:
- Inability to move joint
Strains result from an overuse of muscles and tendons. Prolonged, repetitive movement, without a break, can precipitate a strain. This injury may occur when lifting a heavy object or playing tennis all afternoon.
Symptoms of a strain may include:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty moving muscle
The Ideal Candidate for Sprain and Strain Management:
Anyone troubled by painful, swollen, or stiff muscles or joints may benefit from treatment. The ideal candidate for therapy will be a man or woman in overall good health who understands their condition, and has reasonable expectations for the potential results. Before treating a strain or sprain, a consultation appointment will be set up with Dr. Whipple to determine what medical options are appropriate for the individual situation.
The Consultation Appointment:
An initial appointment should be set up with a trusted physician at the first sign of a sprain or strain. At the consultation, Dr. Whipple will perform a physical exam of the affected area, review medical history, and go over current medications. He will also explain all of the available treatment options. At this time, Dr. Whipple will determine if a sprain or strain has occurred, and which type of therapy should be most beneficial for the individual situation.
Treating Sprains and Strains:
Overall, therapy for both sprains and strains is similar. There are a variety of treatments that can relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation. Home care may be adequate for a mild injury. If the area remains painful and swollen, or movement is limited, it is important to seek medical assistance from a trusted physician.
Home care of the sprain or strain should consist of RICE therapy:
- R – Rest
- I – Ice
- C – Compression
- E – Elevation
Medical care of the sprain or strain may include:
- Crutches or a cane to rest the area
- Compression of the injury with a bandage, splint, boot, or cast
- Pain medications
- Supervised exercise to increase strength
- Physical therapy
- Extreme cases may require surgery
- ReleF™ Technology to encourage healing with safe pulses of radiofrequency energy
A common error made in treating sprains or strains is to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications for pain relief or steroids for the inflammation. Muscles, tendons and ligaments—like bones—heal with an initial and necessary inflammatory reaction in the tissues. The inflammation removes any localized bleeding or bruising and attracts healing factors from the bloodstream to repair the tissue damage. Reducing or inhibiting the inflammation early on will compromise the ability for the damaged tissue to heal.
Hillelson-Whipple Clinic Plastic Surgery and Orthopaedics accepts a variety of payments, including cash, all major credit cards, and medical financing through CareCredit. We also accept most health insurance plans. Ask your patient coordinator to assist in determining your insurance coverage.
About the Surgeon:
Dr. Whipple has been providing expert orthopaeic services for more than 30 years. He holds Board Certification from the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Whipple is a prolific speaker and published author; widely considered a leader in innovative orthopaedic medicine. He founded Hillelson-Whipple Clinic Plastic Surgery and Orthopaedics in 2000 with Dr. Ruth Hillelson.
If you are troubled with a potential sprain or strain, contact Hillelson-Whipple Clinic at 804.290.0060 to set up a complementary consultation with Dr. Whipple. We are available to answer any questions you may have, as well. Hillelson-Whipple Clinic is located in beautiful Richmond, Virginia, only a few miles from Washington DC, Virginia Beach, and the Baltimore, Maryland.