Sprains and Strains

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Sprains and strains are common, especially for people playing sports. Some of the common areas for sprains and strains are the ankle, wrist, back and hamstring.

What is a sprain?

A sprain is a partial or complete tearing of ligaments and tissues at a joint. Falling, twisting, or getting hit can all cause a sprain.

What is a strain?

A strain refers to the stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon fibres, which is tissue that connects muscle to bone. Twisting or pulling these tissues can cause a strain, which can happen suddenly or develop over time. 

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain at the site of an injury
  • Loss of power in the injured area, especially with a sprained joint
  • Swelling of injured area
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint or giddy
  • Pale, cold and clammy skin due to shock

What to do

For all musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains and strains, immediate, appropriate treatment (R.I.C.E.R) during the first 72 hours following injury is vital for an optimal outcome.

R = Rest

Rest from any activity that increases your pain. Ideally lie down in a comfortable position to minimize bleeding, swelling and further damage. Rest may also involve the use of crutches, a protective brace or tape, or the use of a sling etc.

I = Ice

Ice the injured area for 20 minutes every 2 hours. Use crushed ice or an ice pack wrapped in a damp tea towel. (N.B. People who are sensitive to cold or have circulatory problems should be wary of ice treatment)

C = Compression

Compress the injured area with a compression bandage to minimize swelling. If on applying a compression bandage you experience pins and needles, numbness or  any colour change in your extremities (e.g. foot or hand), the bandage is too tight and is cutting off your circulation. It must therefore be loosened or taken off completely. Remove your compression bandage for sleeping.

E = Elevation 

Elevate the injured area above the level of your heart (provided this does not cause an increase in pain) for as long as possible to minimize bleeding and swelling. 

R = Referral 

Refer the injured person to a qualified professional such as a doctor or physiotherapist for precise diagnosis, ongoing care and treatment. This makes a full recovery more likely.

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