Sprains and strains are common injuries that affect the soft tissues surrounding the joints in the body. Both injuries are similar in their symptoms. They are painful, with swelling and redness often occurring in the injured area. While a sprained ankle may not sound as serious as a broken ankle, at times, a sprain or a strain can take longer to heal than a broken bone!
What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain?
While the symptoms of sprains and strains are very similar, the body part affected by each of these injuries is different. Strains are over-extended or torn muscles and tendons, while a sprain is a torn, twisted, or over-extended ligament. Strains typically occur in the muscles of the back, legs, feet, and knees, while sprains are most common in areas around the joints: wrists, ankles, thumbs, and knees.
Sprains generally occur in areas around a joint, where ligaments are found. The symptoms of a sprain may vary, depending on how much of the ligament tissue has been damaged.
What are ligaments?
Ligaments are bands of tough, fibrous tissues that connect muscles and bones. Ligaments are found at each joint and connect the joints to the surrounding bones, allowing the joints to move and bend. Several ligaments support your ankle. Attached to your fibula, the thin bone you feel on the outside of your ankle, are the anterior talofibular ligament, the posterior talofibular ligament, and the calcaneofibular ligament.
According to WebMD, the calcaneofibular ligament connects the fibula to the heel bone, while the anterior talofibular and posterior talofibular ligaments connect the talus to the fibula on the outside of the ankle. The talus is the bone between your heal and the shinbone.
On the inside of the ankle is a ligament complex called the deltoid ligament. The deltoid ligament connects the tibia to the heel and shinbone on the inside of the foot and connects to the navicular bone, as well.
Yet another ligament runs along the back of the ankle. This ligament is called the posterior talofibular ligament.
A sprain is a pulling, tearing, over-extending of the ligament around the joints. One of the most common areas to experience a sprain is in the ankle or knee. A sprain often happens suddenly and a “popping” sensation at the time of injury may lead the patient to believe that a bone has been broken. Often, only a doctor’s examination can determine if the injury is a break or a sprain.
Symptoms of sprains include:
- Limited Mobility
- Inability To Use The Joint Normally
- A Popping Sensation At The Time Of Injury
Causes of Sprains
Sprains happen when a joint is suddenly moved beyond its normal range of motion. A fall or sudden twist to the joint can cause the ligaments to stretch and tear, causing a sprain.
Sprains most commonly occur from:
- Uneven Surfaces - Running or walking on uneven surfaces
- Twists - A sudden twist or pivot
- Falls – Falling or stumbling
- Racquet Sports - Participating in racquet sports
- Contact Sports - Playing contact sports
The most common cause of injuries to the ligaments is participating in sports, especially contact sports. However, a sprain can occur when simply walking, as a misplaced foot can result in a turned ankle that will sprain the ligaments. As individuals age, ligaments sustain damage from normal wear and tear that may make them more likely to succumb to a sprain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the treatments for a sprained ankle will vary depending on the severity of the injury. The severity of the injury depends on the extent of the damage to the ligament and cannot be determined by the nature of the incident that caused the sprain.
Most sprains do not require surgery to heal, though in rare cases surgery is called for. Many sprains can be treated at home, using R.I.C.E. methods. R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
- Rest – Don’t use the affected ligament while it still hurts. Avoid activities that make the pain worse.
- Ice – An ice pack immediately after the injury will help reduce pain and swelling. Continue icing the injury for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, every two to three hours. (If you suffer from diabetes or other circulatory conditions, check with your doctor before applying ice.)
- Compression – Lightly wrapping the injured area with an elastic bandage will help stop swelling. Take care to not wrap too tightly, as that may interfere with circulation. To wrap a sprain, begin the wrapping at the point furthest from your heart and work your way up.
- Elevation – Elevating the injury allows gravity to work for you, pulling excess fluid away from the injured region. Elevation requires lifting the injured area above the level of your heart. Elevating the injured area is most important at night.
Pain Relief For Sprains
In most cases, taking an over the counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen will assist in managing pain and help reduce inflammation. If these medicines are insufficient for managing your pain, you may need to discuss your situation with a doctor as the injury may be more severe than self-care can manage.
Only a doctor can tell for you sure if your injury is a sprain, strain, or even a broken bone. If the self-care methods described above don’t relieve the pain of your injury after a few days, you should have your injury examined by a physician like Dr. Kleis.
Dr. Kleis will examine your injury, determine the extent of damage, and prescribe a course of action that will best help you heal and return to full function. Sometimes X-rays are needed to rule out a broken bone. Dr. Kleis will also take a full medical history and ask questions about your lifestyle and general health to assist in ruling out any contributing conditions.
Dr. Kleis may prescribe a walking boot or other immobilization devices to aid in healing the injured ligament. Often, crutches may be necessary to keep the patient from putting too much weight on the injured foot or ankle.
Physical therapy may be required to return an injured ankle to full use. Specific strengthening and stretching exercises help to restore your range of motion, flexibility, strength, and stability. Dr. Kleis can assist you in full recovery from a sprained ankle or foot injury.
For an evaluation of your sprained ankle or assistance in regaining full use after an injury, please contact Dr. Kleis at (714) 760-4944.
Anyone can experience a strained muscle or tendon. A strain is a muscle or tendon that is torn or stretched and this injury can occur suddenly or over time. Simple overuse can result in a strained muscle or tendon. Other causes of strains are lifting heavy objects incorrectly, repeated motions that your body isn’t used to, a recent injury in another area that causes you to use the rest of your body in a new way, a twist or a fall.
The most common areas to experience a muscle or tendon strain are in the back or leg, but a strain can happen in the ankle, feet, or shoulder, as well. Contact sports put athletes at high risk for sustaining strains, but simple overuse can result in a muscle strain in almost anyone.
As people age, their muscles and tendons sustain normal wear and tear that deplete the body’s ability to “bounce back” from everyday activities. This normal aging process can leave a person more susceptible to injuries like strains.
Chronic strains are usually the result of repeated activity that is stressful to a particular muscle group. Activities that might result in a chronic strain include golfing, rowing, tennis, or basketball. Even walking or running when your body isn’t properly accustomed can result in a strained muscle, as can poor posture or holding your body in an awkward position for a long period. In other words, nearly anyone might experience a strained muscle at some point.
Treating Muscle Strains
Often muscle strains can be treated at home through rest and ice treatments. If the pain is acute or continues for several days, it should be evaluated by a doctor. A doctor’s examination can rule out more serious injury or help devise a plan for avoiding additional strains in the future.
Preventing Strains and Sprains
Preventing most sprains and strains can be as simple as knowing your body and working within your capability level. Avoiding activities that your body is not accustomed to, or building up your strength, flexibility, and endurance before engaging in new activities is key to avoid many injuries. Some injuries happen suddenly, such as falls, and only taking care to prevent accidents can avoid those types of injuries.
To prevent sprains and strains:
- Rest When Necessary – Avoid engaging in activities when you’re already tired or hurting.
- Maintain A Good Diet – Feed your muscles and ligaments the foods they need to maintain strength and flexibility.
- Maintain A Healthy Weight – Excess weight places undue stress on your muscles and ligaments and makes it more likely for injuries to occur.
- Avoid Falls – Take care when walking or running to avoid falls. Choose even, clean surfaces for walking whenever possible.
- Shoes That Fit – Get new shoes when your old ones are no longer supporting your feet well. Choose shoes that provide sufficient support and plenty of room in the toe box. Avoid high-heels whenever possible.
- Stay In Shape – Proper conditioning will help you avoid all sorts of injuries, including sprains and strains.
Treatment Tor Strains & Sprains
If you have experienced a sprain or strain of the ankle or foot, contact Dr. Kleis for a complete examination and diagnosis. Dr. Kleis will rule out other injuries and help get you back on your feet in no time! Call (714) 760-4944 for a consultation today!