Muscle strains and sprains describes all traumatic conditions from twisted ankles to pulled tendons, but these two types of traumas are specific and quite different from each other. Muscle strain is a muscle or its tendons damage (stretch or tear), which is followed by local pain and redness, muscle weakness, swelling and inability to move. Sprain is an injury of joint and its ligaments. So the main difference of these to conditions is type of tissue which is affected.
Causes of strains and sprains
The main causes of strains and sprains are traumas. Therefore, physically active people (like athletes or labor workers) are in much higher risk of experiencing these conditions. Strains may occur after the twist or pull of muscle or tendon. Sprains may occur after a person falls, twists, or is hit with the huge force. Frequent repetitive motions or heavy lifting may also lead to strains and sprains.
What should a person do after a trauma?
After experiencing muscle strains or sprains, or even both, you should evaluate the amount of the damage. If you think, that the trauma is not serious, you should consult with the pharmacist, who will recommend you some painkillers or drugs to reduce inflammation, which can be oral or local/topical. Moreover, pharmacist can refer you to physician, if he thinks that your condition is more serious than you though.
If you have a significant injury, you should immediately consult with your physician. Such injury is lead by strong or unbearable pain, significant swelling and fever. There are no specific test for diagnosis of muscle strains or sprains and the main instrument is physical examination. It is very important to diagnose the amount of the injury, because it can determine the next step of the treatment. If the trauma is very serious, surgery may be needed, healing and recovery process will be much longer.
As strains and sprains are followed by pain and local inflammation, the first step of the treatment is medication therapy. In most cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to a patient after trauma, as it reduces most of the symptoms. If medication do not help for a longer period of time and the injury is excessive, surgery may be considered. Later treatment might include exercise and physical therapy, which is individual and depends on the case.
The self-help option of first choice is the resting of injured area. It is very important to avoid any physical activity and even bigger trauma. Local cooling is also very helpful as it reduces swelling and pain. Wearing a bandage or a device that compresses injured area is also important, because it limits the movements of injured area and accelerates healing process. Special exercises can be considered only after the pain, swelling and inflammation disappears and is very important for rehabilitation. Special nutrition supplements may also be considered to enhance healing.