What is the difference between sprains and strains?
Sprains and muscle strains are common injuries which share similar signs and symptoms but affect different parts of the body.
Sprains involve the stretching or tearing of a ligament, which is the fibrous band of connective tissue that joins two bones together. In contrast, a strain refers to the injury of a muscle or tendon. Tendons are the fibrous cord of tissues which attach muscles to bones.
What causes sprains and strains?
A sprain occurs through direct or indirect trauma on a joint, causing the supporting ligaments to be overstretched; or in severe cases, ruptured. Strains can be classified as chronic strains or acute strains. The former is the result of overusing the muscles in a prolonged, repetitive manner. Acute strains arise when muscles are stretched or contracted abruptly, resulting in strained muscles from pull and tear.
What are the treatment options for sprains and strains?
For mild sprains and strains, try the R.I.C.E. technique:
Rest and avoid activities that causes pain and discomfort.
Ice the injured area with a cold pack.
Compress the area to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Elevate the affected area above the heart level, as this allows gravity to aid in reducing the swelling.
Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol can help to relieve pain while stronger painkillers available from the pharmacists such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help to reduce both pain and inflammation. A severe sprain or strain may require surgery and a rehabilitation plan, so do consult a doctor for further evaluation.