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Throughout our lives, most people will experience having a sprain or strain, and nobody is looking forward to when that day may come. While not life-threatening, they can still be frustrating and painful, especially when they are left untreated or are more severe. Whether you’re a parent of a teenager playing sports or someone who’s getting older and not able to brush them off so easily, it is useful to know how to spot them and what to do when you get them.
With how common sprains and strains are, and how they sound so similar, it can be easy to know which one is which. Simply put, a sprain affects a ligament and a strain affects a muscle. With sprains, this means that one or more ligaments have been stretched or torn, and with strains, the same thing occurs except with muscles or tendons.
The most common forms of sprains are ones that occur in the ankles, wrists, knees, and thumbs. Symptoms of sprains are pain, swelling, and limited motion in the affected area. When getting examined for a sprain, the doctor will evaluate the affected area for swelling and tenderness. If they suspect that the pain could be from a muscle or tendon, they will likely schedule an x-ray to evaluate. If the test confirms that it is a sprain, then simple rest, ice, elevation, and compression will heal it perfectly fine over time.
Strains can be more serious than sprains. Some types of strains include hamstring strains, groin strains, calf strains, torn rotator cuffs, and ruptures. The doctor will give a similar examination as the one for the sprain, but with this one, there is a good chance that they can see or feel a physical deformity in severe cases like ruptures. They will also potentially give an ultrasound to determine the specific nature of the injury. For the milder cases, the same treatment method as sprains is called for. Depending on the nature of it, however, physical therapy or braces can be prescribed to help the healing and recovery process. For severe cases such as ruptures and tears, surgery can be called for to heal the injury.
Overall, they may not be enjoyable to have or deal with, but an ankle sprain or hamstring strain is not the end of the world. If you’re lucky, you can use it as the perfect excuse to lay back with some ice and your favorite food while waiting for it to heal. Even in the more severe cases with muscle strains, full recoveries are expected, and you will regain full or most function in the affected limb. Ultimately, strains and sprains are a part of life, and as we all grow older and our bodies become more susceptible to them, we should understand how to treat them without worrying too much. All you have to do is ice up, kick back, and wait until you’re able to be back on your feet.
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