Common Causes of Sprains & Strains
Sprains and strains can be caused by any sudden motion or fall that puts intense stress on a muscle or joint. Extreme twisting, slipping and falling, and sports activities are common causes of sprains and strains.
Sprains occur most frequently in the ankle, while strains most often occur in the lower back or the hamstring. Everyday tasks can also cause sprains or strains, such as walking on an uneven surface or lifting a heavy object.
Sprains & strains at a glance:
- Injuries to the ligaments and tendons are known as sprains and strains.
- Sprains (ligament injuries) affect the joints and occur when there is damage or trauma to the tissue that connects two bones.
- Strains (tendon injuries) affect the muscles and are caused by damage or trauma to the fiber that connects muscle to bone.
- Both sprains and strains are ranked by three degrees of severity: slight tear, incomplete or partial tear, and severe tear or rupture.
- Symptoms of these ligament and tendon injuries include pain, swelling, and tenderness. In a sprain, there may also be a feeling of instability in the joint. In a strain, the pain may worsen when the joint is used.
- Initial treatment should include the RICE protocol.
Symptoms of sprains & strains
Sprain symptoms include:
- Pain and stiffness
- Redness and increase in skin temperature
Strain symptoms include:
- Sharp pain
- Difficulty putting weight on the injured limb
- Decreased range of motion of the injured joint
Consult an orthopedic physician if:
- Symptoms do not improve in two to three days
- A popping sound is heard during the injury or when the joint is moved
- It is impossible to move the injured limb or joint
- The bones in the injured joint are misaligned
- It is difficult to walk or move after an injury to the back
- Additional symptoms include numbness, significant swelling, fever, or open wounds
Treatment of Sprains & Strains
Initial treatment for both sprains and strains include the RICE protocol: rest, applying ice, compressing the injured joint or limb with an elastic bandage, and elevating the injured area. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen can help reduce the pain and swelling. Physical therapy is also often beneficial for treatment.
In more severe injuries, immobilizing the injured area with a cast or splint may be necessary to allow the limb or joint to rest. Surgery to repair severely torn or damaged ligaments or tendons may be necessary for third-degree injuries, such an ACL tear.