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Sprains, Strains and Physiotherapy

By Dr. Mehreen Hussain, ND

If you experience an injury, you may have stressed your joint or even ruptured supporting ligaments. This means that you have a sprain, and can be caused from a twist, blow, or fall to the body. You may experience a pop or tear in the joint. The intensity of the sprain varies but the most common symptoms cause bruising, pain, inflammation, and swelling. Most people experience a sprain of the ankle. Most sprains take about 3-6 weeks to heal but if the ligament is completely torn then it can take months to recover.

If you have a sprain, the doctor may mention its “grade”:

  • Grade I (mild) – a small tear with some stretching of the ligament, and little instability at the joint
  • Grade II (moderate) -not a full tear, but still more serious with some looseness in the joint
  • Grade III (severe) – when the ligament is completely ruptured or torn. It will generally feel like the bone is broken due to the inability to use the affected limb because the joint isn’t stable

A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. It is sometimes called a “pulled muscle.” A strain happens when a muscle or tendon is stretched too far or is partially torn. A chronic strain occurs when the muscle or tendon is overused due to an extended period of repetitive movement. Typical symptoms of strains include a sudden onset of pain, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, muscle stiffness, soreness, swelling, limited range of movement, inflammation, cramping and a “knotted up” feeling. The back, hamstring, calf and Achilles tendon are the most commonly strained.

Certain situations make you more likely to injure your joints. These include:

  • Athletic activities or exercise, including running or jogging
  • Accidents, such as falling or slipping
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Overexerting yourself
  • Sitting or standing in an awkward position
  • Prolonged repetitive motion

Injuries are generally treated by the following plan “RICE”- this stands for:

  • Rest – unpainful movement of the area is important, but avoid putting weight on the injury for a prolonged time
  • Ice – apply ice, not heat, to the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes every hour or two throughout the first 24-72 hours or until the swelling subsides
  • Compression – wear an elastic compression wrap for the first 24-36 hours to help minimize any swelling
  • Elevation – rest the injury above heart level for two to three hours per day to reduce the amount of swelling that collects in the body’s extremities

Physiotherapy for sprains and strains is focused on ensuring that the patient has the best repair possible while preserving normal function of the body part effected. A physiotherapist will evaluate the injured area to determine the extent of the injury and ensure that the ligaments or tendons are still intact. After they identify the injured area, they will create a treatment plan. Treatment plans can include therapeutic modalities such as ultrasound, IFC and TENs. It can also include heat, ice, taping, manual or self-stretching and strengthening exercises. Working with a physiotherapist can help you regain movement, reduce pain and provide exercises and body mechanic strategies to help you heal or strengthen your body to prevent problems down the road.

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