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Sprains And Strains

A sprain is a complete or incomplete tear in the supporting ligaments surrounding a joint that usually follows a sharp twist A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Muscles move your skeleton in an amazing variety of ways. When a muscle contracts it pulls on a tendon, which is in turn connected to your bone. Muscles are made to stretch, but if stretched too far, or if stretched while contracting , an injury called a strain my result. A strain can either be a stretching or tear of the muscle or tendon. Both usually heal without surgical repair.



A sprain is caused by a ligament being stretched too far. A common sprain is an injury we often call a ' twisted ankle .' This injury often occurs in activities such as running , hiking, and basketball. People will fall or step on an uneven surface (in basketball this is often another player's foot) and roll their foot to the inside. This stretches the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, called the talofibular and calcaenofibular ligaments.


Chronic strains are the result of overuse - prolonged, repetitive movement - of muscles and tendons. Inadequate rest breaks during intensive training precipitates a strain. Acute strains are caused by a direct blow to the body, overstretching, or excessive muscle contraction.

Signs and symptoms

Sprains and strains cause varying signs and symptoms.


A sprain causes local pain (especially during joint movement), swelling, loss of mobility (which may not occur until several hours after the injury), and a black-and-blue discoloration from blood extravasating into surrounding tissues. A sprained ankle is the most common joint injury.


A strain may be acute (an immediate result of vigorous muscle overuse or overstress) or chronic (a result of repeated overuse).

An acute strain causes a sharp, transient pain (the patient may say he heard a snapping noise) and rapid swelling. When severe pain subsides, the muscle is tender; after several days, ecchymoses appear.

A chronic strain causes stiffness, soreness, and generalized tenderness. These conditions appear several hours after the injury.


A history of recent injury or chronic overuse, clinical findings, and an X-ray to rule out fractures establish the diagnosis.


Effective treatment differs for sprains and strains.


Sprains call for control of pain and swelling and immobilization of the injured joint to promote healing. Immediately after the injury, elevating the joint above the level of the heart and intermittently applying ice for 12 to 48 hours controls swelling. A towel between the ice pack and the skin prevents cold injuries.

An immobilized sprain usually heals in 2 to 3 weeks, and the patient can then gradually resume normal activities. Occasionally, however, torn ligaments don't heal properly and cause recurrent dislocation, necessitating surgical repair.

Some athletes may request immediate surgical repair to hasten healing; to prevent sprains, they may tape their wrists and ankles before sports activities.


Acute strains require analgesics and application of ice for up to 48 hours, then heat. Complete muscle rupture may require surgery.

Chronic strains usually don't need treatment, but heat application, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen), or an analgesic-muscle relaxant can relieve discomfort.

Home Remedies for Sprains and Strains

  • Massaging the affected area with comfrey oil or cream can help in alleviating the pain.
  • Arnica balm or ointment can be used as cream or a compress for the affected area.
  • Horse chestnut is also very useful for such injuries. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties and presence of a compound called aescin it becomes beneficial for all kinds of injuries. You can spread this gel on the affected area every two hours till the pain subsides.
  • Five drops of thyme oil diluted either in bathwater or some other oil can be used as a compress to get rid of swelling.

Long-term outlook for a child with a sprain or strain:

Contusions, sprains, or strains heal quite quickly in children. It is important that the child adhere to the activity restrictions and/or stretching and strengthening rehabilitation programs to prevent re-injury.

Most sports injuries are due to either traumatic injury or overuse of muscles or joints. Many sports injuries can be prevented with proper conditioning and training, wearing appropriate protective gear, and using proper equipment.


No one is immune to sprains and strains, but here are some tips developed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to help reduce your injury risk:

  • Participate in a conditioning program to build muscle strength
  • Do stretching exercises daily
  • Always wear properly fitting shoes
  • Nourish your muscles by eating a well-balanced diet
  • Warm up before any sports activity, including practice
  • Use or wear protective equipment appropriate for that sport.

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Disclaimer: website is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Always take the advice of professional health care for specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment. We will not be liable for any complications, or other medical accidents arising from the use of any information on this web site. Please note that medical information is constantly changing. Therefore some information may be out of date.