| What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?
What is a sprain?
A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament, the fibrous band of connective tissue that joins the end of one bone with another. Ligaments stabilize and support the body's joints. For example, ligaments in the knee connect the upper leg with the lower leg, enabling people to walk and run.
What is a strain?
What causes sprains and strains?
A strain is a twist, pull and/or tear of a muscle and/or tendon. Tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bone.
A sprain is caused by direct or indirect trauma (a fall, a blow to the body, etc.) that knocks a joint out of position, and overstretches, and, in severe cases, ruptures the supporting ligaments. Typically, this injury occurs when an individual lands on an outstretched arm, slides into a base, jumps up and lands on the side of the foot, or runs on an uneven surface.
What activities make athletes most susceptible to sprains and strains?
Chronic strains are the result of overuse - prolonged, repetitive movement - of muscles and tendons. Inadequate rest breaks during intensive training precipitates a strain. Acute strains are caused by a direct blow to the body, overstretching or excessive muscle contraction.
All sports and exercises, even walking, carry a risk of sprains. The anatomic areas most at risk for a sprain depend on the specific activities involved. For example, basketball, volleyball, soccer and other jumping sports share a risk for foot, leg, and ankle sprains. Soccer, football, hockey, boxing, wrestling, and other contact sports put athletes at risk for strains. Gymnastics, tennis, rowing, golf-sports that require extensive gripping have a high incidence of hand strains. Elbow strains frequently occur in racquet, throwing and contact sports.
What are the signs of a sprain?
While the intensity varies, pain, bruising and inflammation are common to all three categories of sprains--mild, moderate, severe. The individual will usually feel a tear or pop in the joint. A severe sprain produces excruciating pain at the moment of injury, as ligaments tear completely, or separate from the bone. This loosening can make the joint nonfunctional. If these severe sprains are not treated correctly they can result in a joint that is unstable and non functional. If this occurs then surgery is required to repair the ligaments. A moderate sprain partially tears the ligament, producing joint instability, and some swelling. A ligament is stretched in a mild sprain, but there is no joint loosening.
What are the signs of a strain?
Typical indications include pain, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, swelling, inflammation and cramping. In severe strains, the muscle and/or tendon is partially or completely ruptured, often incapacitating the individual. Some muscle function will be lost with a moderate strain, where the muscle/tendon is overstretched and slightly torn. With a mild strain, the muscle/tendon is stretched or pulled, slightly.
How are sprains and strains treated?
Rest, ice, compression and elevation usually will help minimize the damage. It is important in all but mild cases for a medical doctor to evaluate the injury and establish a treatment and rehabilitation plan. A severe sprain or strain may require surgery or immobilization followed by months of therapy. Mild sprains and strains may require rehabilitation exercises and activity modification during recovery.
No one is immune to sprains and strains, but here are some tips developed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to help reduce your injury risk:
- Participate in a conditioning program to build muscle strength
- Do stretching exercises daily
- Always wear properly fitting shoes
- Nourish your muscles by eating a well-balanced diet
- Warm up before any sports activity, including practice
- Use or wear protective equipment appropriate for that sport
Do I have a Break or Fracture?
A fracture and a break are the same thing. All fractures are not alike, however. Some fractures are minor and can be treated conservatively like a sprain or strain, while some may need to be “set” or manipulated prior to splinting. Other fractures are even more serious and may need surgery to fix. Only an Orthopedic Surgeon can tell you whether or not you need surgery depending on the class of fracture you have.
Orthopedic Surgeons use classification systems in order to study and treat fractures. Most fracture classification systems divide fractures into many grades using multiple variables. For example, one of the variables used is what Orthopedic surgeons call displacement or whether the fracture is “out of place.” Other variables include whether the fracture goes into a joint and if the bones are angulated or “out of alignment.” Low-grade fractures usually may be treated conservatively, while high-grade fractures require surgery.
Most fractures in adults heal in about 8 weeks and 4 to 6 weeks in children. Factors that can increase the healing time of fractures include poor diet, diabetes, poor blood flow, and hypertension, and most of all the use of cigarettes.