We have all suffered from a sprained ankle or muscle strain at some time or other. Most of these injuries resolve in a short time. However, lingering effects of serious sprains may last for months or even years.
Sprains are injuries to the connective tissues called ligaments. Ligaments attach your muscles to your bones. An unexpected twisting movement causes ligaments to overstretch and even tear away from the bone. These types of injuries are most common in wrist and ankle joints.
Muscles have a tough yet flexible protective web. This web-like tissue is known as fascia. Strains occur when fascia or muscles are injured. The most common cause of strains is overexertion of muscles and fascia.
How To Prevent Injuries To Muscles And Connective Tissue
The most important thing that you can do is to pay attention to your body and your environment. Prevent falls. Pay extra attention if you are walking on uneven terrain, wet, or frozen surfaces, or in the dark. Wear non-skid shoes which are appropriate for the weather.
Get regular exercise to ensure that your joints and muscles are strong. Always do warm-up exercises prior to engaging in vigorous exercise.
Lift heavy objects using the large muscles of your arms and legs, not your back. If lifting heavy objects, get help. Avoid twisting while reaching, bending or lifting.
Know your limits! If you are tied to a desk job most of the week, do not suddenly plan to hike up a mountain unless you have been engaged in a training program.
How Do I Know If I Have A Sprain Or A Strain?
Strains and sprains are both painful injuries which often cause localized swelling and sometimes bruising. The mechanism of injury is different. Sprains occur suddenly while strains generally result over a period of time ranging from minutes to days.
Some sprains respond well to simple home remedies. Others require medical attention. It depends upon the degree of injury. Serious strains may result when the ligament is torn away from the bone. Sometime the injury occurs with such strong force that a piece of the bone which the ligament attaches too breaks off from the rest of the bone. If this occurs, you may feel a loose piece of bone or an abnormal looking joint. The lining of joint itself may be impaired. Some sprains are so severe that dislocation of the affected joint occurs. Healing may take several weeks. Medical attention, such as surgery or physical therapy, may be required for complete healing to occur. Strains may be painful; but they usually heal on their own within days to weeks.
What Should I Do If I Have A Sprain Or Strain?
Remember the acronym RICE for treating sprains and strains. RICE means rest, ice, compress and elevate.
Don’t try to “walk it off” or “work through the pain.” Rest the injured area right away.
Apply ice or cold water if ice is not available. Keep a bag of cheap frozen vegetables in the freezer specifically for injuries. You may prefer to keep a clean soft old wet washcloth in a sealed bag as well. They both mold to the shape of the body better than commercial ice packs and ice cubes.
While ice is good, with a little planning you can have herbal compresses handy which will relieve swelling, bruising and discomfort better than plain ice. If you are away from home, these are great to freeze and carry in a cooler. Even if they thaw, they will still provide cool relief for sprains and strains.
A wide variety of herbs work, but here is my favorite blend. Simmer four teaspoonfuls of dried or four tablespoonfuls of fresh comfrey root with three cups of water for 20 minutes in a covered pan. Remove the pot from the stove. Add one tablespoonful of dried or three tablespoons of fresh arnica flowers. Cover the pot. Let the herbs infuse for 20 minutes. If arnica is not available, use peppermint leaf, black tea or birch leaves. After 20 minutes or more, strain out the herbs. Use cheesecloth and squeeze the herbal residue carefully to reap all of the herbs medicinal value from the plants. Soak a cloth in the remaining tea. Place the cloth in a carefully labeled bag and freeze.
If someone gets injured, apply the herbal icepack to the injured spot for 20 minutes. Remove the herbal icepack for 20 minutes, and then reapply it. Repeat the process as often as desired depending upon the extent of the injury.
Compress and Elevate
If a joint is involved, apply an elastic bandage to the injured area to reduce swelling. Apply it firmly, but not so tight as to impair circulation. If you can easily slide two fingers beneath a snug bandage, you have applied it correctly. Check the circulation by asking the injured person to wiggle his or her fingers or toes. Check the skin of their fingers or toes to be sure that they are not numb, pale or blue. Those signs indicate that the bandage is too tight. If it is too tight, adjust the bandage immediately. Otherwise, remove it a couple of times daily until pain and swelling are reduced.
Elevate the extremity above the level of the heart to further reduce swelling and pain.
What Else Can I Do To Help Sprains And Strains Heal?
After a few days, you may find that warm compresses provide more comfort than iced or cold compresses. Use the same procedure as for making herbal ice packs, but do not freeze the saturated cloth. Instead, apply warm herbal packs.
Topical creams containing arnica or comfrey are beneficial as well. Use meadowsweet or white willow bark internally to further reduce swelling and discomfort. Follow label instructions.
If you are not sure what kind of injury you have, the injured person is elderly or a child, or if you think that your injury may need further attention, contact a qualified health care professional.