How to Care for Sprains and Strains?

discover the main difference between sprains and strains, their causes, symptoms, treatments, typical recovery times, and prevention suggestions.

What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?

People often use the terms “sprain” and “strain” interchangeably as they are in fact quite similar. Both refer to the tearing or overstretching of the soft tissues in and around your joints. So how do sprains differ from strains? In a nutshell, sprains refer to a stretch or tear in the ligaments, the band of soft tissue that connects two bones together. Sprains typically occur in the lower limbs with ankle sprains being the most common. While strains refer to an injury of the muscle or tendons (soft tissue) that connects a muscle to a bone.

Strain ou SprainCommon symptoms of sprains and strains

Symptoms of sprains and strains are in fact quite similar with a few minor differences.

Common symptoms of sprains include:

• Pain and tenderness around the joint
• Bruising around the joint
• Swelling
• Limited flexibility and range of motion

Common symptoms of strains include

• Pain around the joint
• Muscle spasms
• Swelling
• Limited flexibility and range of motion

Diagnosis and when to see a doctor

Mild sprains and strains can be treated at home. However, if you are unable to stand or walk without pain, are unable to move or flex the joint, or feel numbness or tingling around the joint, you should see a doctor. Your doctor will typically order an X-ray to rule out a fracture. If the X-ray is inconclusive, they may order an MRI. If no injuries to the bone are visible, your doctor will typically diagnose a strain or sprain.

What causes sprains and strains?

The most common causes are accidents (falling, tripping), exercise, lifting heavy objects, overexertion, and prolonged repetitive motions. For example, ankle sprains can be caused by running on an uneven surface or landing awkwardly from a jump. There are also certain risk factors that come into play and can make you more prone to sprains and strains:
• Being out of shape
• Not warming up or cooling down before and after exercise
• Not using proper equipment
• Being tired

How to treat sprains and strains

Mild sprains and strains can be treated at home using the RICE technique.
Rest : stay off the joint and give it time to heal.
Ice : apply ice to the affected area to reduce inflammation and swelling. As you should never apply ice directly to the skin, try our practical Magic Bag cold compresses instead which are designed for direct skin contact. Just pop them in the freezer and apply!
Compression : wrap the joint in a bandage or trainer’s tape to reduce swelling.
Elevation : try to keep the joint elevated above the heart to reduce swelling.

Recovery times

Most often, minor injuries such as ankle sprains will heal within a few days to a week. But remember to take it easy when you return to your regular activities. And protect the joint with tape or a brace to give it time to heal. For more severe sprains and strains, you may need a bit longer to heal. It is best to speak with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

Some injuries will happen no matter what. However, you can take preventive measures to reduce your risk of sprains or strains. This includes exercising regularly to build up muscle strength and range of motion, warming up and cooling down properly when exercising, using proper equipment, and being cautious when conditions such as ice and snow are present. And if you do suffer a mild strain or sprain, remember Magic Bag cold compresses provide all natural pain relief. Get yours today!