We’ve all been there – walking down the street, not paying attention when suddenly your ankle slips off the curb. There’s immediate pain, but it’s difficult to determine if it’s an injury that will go away on its own with a little RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment, or if a visit to the doctor will be necessary. The best way to find out if you’re experiencing a sprain or strain that warrants medical attention is to consult with a physical therapist.
Sprains and strains: what’s the difference?
That’s one of the most common questions people ask when they hurt a part of their body: is it a sprain or strain? While they may seem similar, the distinctions are actually easier to make than you may think. In order to know the differences between a sprain and a strain, you much first know the differences between a tendon and a ligament.
Tendons are strong, fibrous tissues that connect bone to muscle. Ligaments are similar connective tissues to tendons, although instead of connecting bone to muscle, they connect bone to bone.
A strain occurs when the tendons attaching your muscle to bone are stretched too far or torn. A strain can be acute, meaning that it happens as an immediate response to an injury, or chronic, meaning that it has developed over time due to performing the same repetitive motions over and over.
A sprain occurs when the ligaments connecting your joints are damaged. This can affect your ankles, knees, elbows, or wrists. With a sprain, the joint is so violently twisted that the tissues are stretched or torn. The pain may be mild, subsiding in a few minutes or hours, or it can be more severe, requiring physical therapy or even surgery.
How can physical therapy help?
Physical therapists are highly trained medical professionals in the field of movement. They can help you recover from your sprain or strain, in addition to helping you prevent further injury in the future. Physical therapy is a proven and efficient way to provide relief, and in many cases it eliminates the need for harmful drugs or invasive surgery.
For a sprain or strain, physical therapy treatments typically follow three steps. In the beginning, pain relief is the primary goal. Our physical therapist will provide you with one or several pain-relieving services, such as ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, electrical nerve stimulation, stretching, or ultrasound.
After the pain has been managed, our physical therapist will focus on healing the injury. He or she will help you regain your range of motion in the joint that was sprained, or will help strengthen the muscles that were strained.
Once your injury is healed, the focus will be on preventing future injury. Unfortunately, once you have sprained a joint or strained a muscle, you are much more likely to do it again in the future. However, physical therapy can help prevent that from happening! By providing strengthening exercises, our physical therapist will help you build muscle around the injured area, greatly reducing your risk for injuring it again in the future.
If you have a sprain or strain that needs treatment, give our office a call today. We will set up a consultation with one of our physical therapists for you, so you can discuss what treatments may benefit you. Don’t wait to seek treatment – find relief today!