Sprains and Strains

sprains-and-strainsSprains and strains are injuries to the muscles, ligaments and tendons or ‘soft tissue’ of the body.

They usually occur during sports and exercise activities, but sometimes simple everyday activities can lead to a soft tissue injury.

Sprains

A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament, (connective tissue that passes from one end of the bone to another) and/or the joint capsule. Ligaments stabilize joints and limit unwanted movements.

The areas of your body that are most vulnerable to sprains are your:

• ankles
• knees and
• wrists

A sprained ankle can occur when your foot turns inward, placing extreme tension on the ligaments of your outer ankle. A sprained knee can be the result of a sudden twist, and a wrist sprain can occur when falling on an outstretched hand.

Strains

A strain is an injury to a muscle and/or tendons.

Tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to the bone. During movement, muscles contract to perform an action. Excessive pressure or load on the muscles during these movements can damage muscle fibres and/or the tendons resulting in local bleeding, bruising, and pain.

Strains often occur in your:

• lower leg (calf muscles)
• upper leg (typically the hamstring)
• groin or
• back

Degrees of severity of a sprain or strain

Soft tissue injuries are graded according to their severity and include:

Grade I – some fibres are torn and the site is moderately painful and swollen, but function and strength are mostly unaffected.

Grade II – many fibres are torn and the site is painful and swollen, with some loss of function and strength. If a ligament is sprained there is usually some instability in the joint.

Grade III– the soft tissue is totally torn, with considerable loss of function and strength. If a ligament sprain there is usually significant instability in the joint. Grade III injuries often need surgical repair.

Symptoms of sprains and strains

While the intensity varies symptoms of sprains and strains include:

• Pain
• Bruising
• Swelling
• Inflammation
• Weakness of muscles or tendon
• Instability around the affected joint

Treatment for sprains and strains

Most soft tissue injuries will take 3-6 weeks to heal properly.

It is important to get the correct treatment as soon after the injury as possible to help recovery and reduce the risk of further injury. This is where physiotherapy can get you back to moving well again.

In the first 24 hours after injury:
• RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
• Avoid exercise, alcohol and massage which can increase swelling.
• If symptoms become worse in the first 24 hours seek medical attention.

Mild to moderate sprains and strains
Treatments such as mobilisation and soft tissue therapy; bracing and electrotherapy can help you recover quicker. Exercise therapy to restore full strength and flexibility is an important part your treatment, particularly if you are returning to sport.

Severe sprains and strains
May require surgery. You will need a review and advice from a Sports Physician and/or Orthopaedic surgeon.

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