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Muscle strain/sprain

Sprains and strains are very common injuries that affect muscles and ligaments.

They often occur if you change direction or speed suddenly, fall and land awkwardly or collide with an object or person–such as when playing sports.

A sprain occurs when one or more of your ligaments have been stretched, twisted or torn, usually as a result of excessive force being applied to a joint.

Ligaments are strong bands of tissue around joints that connect bones to one another.

Common locations for sprains include the knees, ankles, wrists and thumbs.

Symptoms of a sprain can include:

  • pain around the affected joint
  • being unable to use the joint normally or being unable to put weight on it
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • tenderness

A strain occurs when muscle fibers stretch or tear. They usually occur when the muscle has been stretched beyond its limits or it has been forced to contract (shorten) too quickly.

Muscle strains are particularly common in the legs and back, such as hamstring strains and lumbar (lower back) strains.

Symptoms of a muscle strain can include:

  • pain in the affected muscle
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • muscle spasms (when the muscles contract tightly and painfully)
  • loss of some, or all, of the function in the affected muscle
  • blood collecting under the skin at the site of the strain – this is known as a hematoma, and it may look like a large, dark-red bruise

How sprains and strains are treated

Minor sprains and strains can usually be treated with self-care techniques, such as PRICE therapy(protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation).

Generally, you should try to start moving a sprained joint as soon as it is not too painful to do so, whereas a strained muscle should normally be immobilized for at least a few days.

Ordinary painkillers such as paracetamol can be used to help ease any pain,although stronger medication can be prescribed if the pain is more severe.

Most people will regain full use of the affected body part within six to eight weeks, although severe injuries may take longer to heal and some people may experience persistent problems lasting several months or longer.

What would happen at a consultation?

You would first of all receive a comprehensive MSK Physiotherapy examination. Treatment normally involves carrying out exercises designed to improve the range of motion and return the normal function of injured area.

This may reduce your risk of experiencing long-term problems or injuring the area again.