A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament. A strain is a stretched or torn muscle.

Symptoms

  • Pain or tenderness in the area of injury; severity varies with the extent of the injury
  • Swelling of the affected joint
  • Redness or bruising
  • Loss of normal mobility in the injured joint

Causes

  • Sprains usually occur from an accident, injury or fall
  • Strains are usually caused by overuse and injuries, including sports injuries

Prevention

  • Wear the proper protective gear and clothing for the sport
  • Wear proper fitting shoes that provide shock absorption and stability
  • Build up gradually with any exercise program - don't over do it and stop if you feel pain
  • Do warm-up stretches before the activity, stretching and holding for 30 seconds
  • Cool down after the exercise; do the activity at a slower pace for five minutes

Self-care

  • If the injury does not appear serious, stop what you are doing and use R.I.C.E.
        Rest the injured area as much as possible.
        Ice the injured area as soon as possible for the next 48 hours. Apply the ice pack for 15-20 minutes every two hours while awake.
        Compression-apply an elastic bandage to the injured area.
        Elevate the injured area above the heart level, especially when sleeping.
  • Take an over-the-counter medicine for pain, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, and avoid aspirin
  • After using ice for 48 hours, switch to heat - soak the joint in warm water or apply heat for 15 minutes every two hours
  • Use crutches if it is to painful to bear weight
  • If you sprain a finger or hand, remove all rings

Treatment

Diagnostic tests may include x-rays of the injured area or CT scan or MRI to rule out possible fractures. Surgery may be necessary to repair badly torn ligaments. A cast may be necessary for fractures, severs sprains, or following surgery.