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Sprains & Strains
Sprains and Strains

A sprain is when damage occurs to a ligament due to over stretching. Sprains always affect joints, and common joints affected are ankles, knees, wrists and fingers. Sprains often occur along side of strains or broken bones. There are 4 degrees of sprain:

1st degree – The ligament has been stretched, but is not torn.
2nd degree – The ligament has been torn partially.
3rd degree – The ligament has been torn completely.
4th degree – The ligament has been broken. This is different than a 3rd degree sprain due to how it heals.

A strain occurs when a muscle is overstretched. This can occur to any muscle in the body, and often occurs along side of sprains and broken bones. Strains are often referred to as “a pulled muscle”

Sprains and Strains can cause the following problems and complications:

- Pain
- Swelling
- Difficulty moving the affected area.
- Permanent loss of mobility if not treated properly.
- Compartment syndrome if swelling increases.
Compartment syndrome is where swelling in an appendage increases to the point that it decreases blood flow to and from the appendage distal to the injury. This causes decreased oxygen to the tissues and can cause permanent damage.
The signs and symptoms of the different degrees of sprain are the same, however they get more severe the greater the degree of damage.

Some common signs and symptoms of a sprain or strain include:

- Inability or difficulty moving the affected area.
- Swelling around the affected area
- Bruising around affected area.
- Increased pain as degree of sprain increases.
- Weakness in affected limb.

Treatment :

Sprains and strains can be difficult to tell apart from each other or a broken bone, so it is generally a good idea to get checked out by a doctor to determine the exact type of injury and the severity. Sprains and strains can be diagnosed by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Some 3rd and all 4th degree sprains, and some strains are treated by surgery.

Basic treatment for a sprain or strain is P.R.I.C.E which stands for

P – Protect the injury from further damage.
R – Rest
I – Ice, applied for no more than 20 minutes an hour.
C – Compression, reduces swelling. Be sure that compression bandages do not compromise blood flow.
E – Elevation, elevate affect joint above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.

DO take ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen (paracematol) as directed on the bottle.
DO call your doctor for an appointment, or go to an urgent care/walk in clinic.
DO go to the hospital if you have numbness or tingling in the affected limb.
DO go to the hospital if the skin is dusky or darker in the area past the injury.

DO NOT take aspirin.
DO NOT walk if possible in cases of sprains in the leg joints until they can be seen by a doctor.
DO NOT ignore an injury that continues to get worse after 24 hours.

What to expect at the doctors or hospital:

They will ask you how it happened, how long ago it happened, what you have done since it happened, if you have ever injured that joint before, how much it hurts, and how well you can move it or bear weight on it. They may move the joint to assess your range of motion, and test your reflexes. If they take x-rays or an MRI you will have to hold very still while a big machine takes pictures of the affected area.

You may be given a brace or cast, or crutches if you have hurt a leg joint. You may be given a prescription for pain or anti-inflammatory medication.

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