Sprains are due to injured ligaments and often affect the thumb, wrist, ankle and knee. Typical symptoms of a sprain include pain around a joint, swelling, tenderness, and an inability to use the joint normally. Swelling often occurs almost immediately, whereas the onset of bruising may be delayed.
Muscle strains are caused by over-stretching or tearing of muscle fibres and are common in the legs and lower back – particularly in people who are unfit or do not use good sporting techniques. Muscle strains usually lead to muscle pain and swelling, bruising, and reduced limb function.
Sprains and strains are common, but often go unreported. Ankle sprain is the most common type of sprain, often occurring during sports and resulting in 1 to 1.5 million Accident & Emergency (A&E) department visits in the UK each year. You’re at higher risk of suffering sprains and strains if you don’t warm up properly when taking part in sport, or if you exercise when you’re tired.
Most sprains and strains get better by themselves and usually resolve within six to eight weeks, depending on where the injury is and how bad it is. After 2 weeks, most sprains and strains will feel better. Avoid strenuous exercise such as running for up to 8 weeks, as there’s a risk of further damage.
You’re likely to be able to return to full sporting activities at around 12 weeks. But some severe injuries of larger muscles may take several months to heal.
Try to remember these phrases for immediate treatment of sprains and strains;
Used for treating injuries initially…
Avoid all of these things in the first 72 hours after injury…
Seek further medical advice if you’ve suffered a severe sprain or strain that may suggest a broken bone or joint dislocation, if your pain is not controlled by over the counter medication, or if your sprain or strain does not get better as expected.
Warning symptoms and signs include:
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