A sprain is an injury to a ligament and is caused by a severe stretching of the ligament beyond the normal range of motion. If the trauma is severe enough, the ligament can be torn or ruptured. This is the most severe form of sprain. It can also be torn away from the bone to which the ligament is attached. When this occurs, the bone cannot be moved normally, because it attaches one bone to another. When this occurs, surgical intervention may be required.
A strain is an injury to a muscle and can occur in any part of the muscle. There are basically 3 degrees of injury and are classified as grades. Grade 1. Is the over stretching of a few muscle fibers within the muscle, and tearing of less than 10% of the fibers. Grade 2. The muscle fibers are partially torn, affecting 10 to 50% of the fibers. This is enough to cause a very painful condition. Grade 3. There is extensive tearing or even a complete rupture of the muscle, affecting 50 to 100% of it's mass. The muscle can also be torn away from its bone attachment, which almost certainly requires surgical intervention. When this occurs, the muscle cannot be contracted normally.
You can prevent most sprains and strains by applying some common sense rules, whether you are at work, playing sports, gardening or doing household chores. I have discussed these rules in other articles, and they can be applied here as well, no matter what activity you may be involved in. When these injuries occur, the most asked question is, "Do I use cold or heat to treat this injury?" The general rule that applies, is when the injury occurs, apply an icepack during the first 24 to 72 hours. The icepack should only be applied for 15 to 20 minutes at time with an hour rest between the applications of the icepack. If an icepack is not available you can use a frozen food bag from the freezer, or place ice cubes in two plastic bags. When applying this, always cover the injured area with a thin washcloth or a few paper towels.
There are times when COLD THERAPY SHOULD NOT BE USED. If the area has less sensation, where there is a circulatory problem, or over open wound. Generally after the initial treatment with cold therapy (during the first 72 hours), the use of heat may be beneficial. Here the question is what type of heat to apply. There are two types of heat you can use. The dry heat, or moist heat. The moist heat is the heat of choice as it can be the more beneficial of the two. Here again, there may be contra-indications to the use of heat. DO NOT USE HEAT over areas of decreased sensation, circulatory problems and any malignancies. DO NOT USE HEAT during the acute phase of injury (during the first 24 to 72 hour period). When using heat on any part of the back, whether it be the low back, shoulders, arms or legs, BE SURE NOT TO LAY ON THE PAD AND FALL ASLEEP WITH THE HEAT ON. Use the heat for only 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
There are times after the acute phase, when a combination of both cold and heat therapy can be of value in soothing the injured area. Follow the same rules and times when using the heat and cold combination as you do with each individual therapy. Give yourself enough of a rest period between the use of each therapy so that the tissues can return to their normal temperature. During this treatment phase, the MOST IMPORTANT RULE IS REST. The injured area needs to rest as much as possible so that nature can take its course, and healing take place. If the injury does not respond to the treatment of REST, ICE, AND COLD (or in combination of both), it would be advisable to see your physician, because a more intensive therapy may be required. If the injured part is not rested sufficiently, further damage may occur which will increase the length of time that the area will take to heal.
Depending on the area of sprain or strain, there are other measures that can be taken to immobilize the area so that it is afforded enough rest to prevent further injury and facilitate healing. Using an orthopedic support, whether it is for the low back, knee, arm, wrist or elbow is the proper choice to make. Picking the proper support can be of the utmost importance. For a back injury where you feel pain up to the mid back, a "Sacro-lumbar" Belt would be the one of choice. If the pain were across the low back area, between the hips, a "Trochanter" Belt would be sufficient to stabilize the sacroiliac joints.
For an ankle injury, depending on the severity of the injury, a simple ankle wrap support may be sufficient. If the injury is severe, a "Lace-up Ankle" support may be needed. There are also adjustable ankle supports that can be used so that the pressure can be applied as needed, and make it more comfortable to wear. For knee injuries, the same applies. There are various types of supports that can be used according to the severity of the injury. Generally, an adjustable support is better because here again, the fit and the amount of tension can be regulated to obtain the most comfort and support. For injuries to the wrist, forearm and elbow these same rules generally apply. Wherever possible, the adjustable support is the best choice. A slip-on support cannot give you the support necessary to stabilize the injured muscles and ligaments.
When treating injuries, such as "Lateral Humeral Epicondylitis" (Tennis Elbow), "Tendinitis and Tenosynovitis", injuries that are very often caused by extreme or repeated trauma, it is advisable to wear the support when engaging in whatever activity that may be. You can check out the types of support that can be the most beneficial for you by checking under the products on our Home Page. Remember that "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". By taking care of any injury as it occurs, can prevent long periods of pain and suffering, and have you back playing tennis, golf, bowling, running and being as active as you like to be.