A sprain is an injury of joints that is caused by being stretched beyond their oversized capacity and possibly more. A muscular tear caused in the same manner is referred to as a strain. In cases where either ligament or muscle tissue is torn, immobilization and surgical repair may be necessary. Ligaments are tough, fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. Sprains can occur in any joint but are most common in the ankle and wrist.
Common symptoms of a sprain:
•pain around the affected joint
•being unable to use the joint normally or being unable to put weight on it
The swelling from a sprain will often occur soon after the injury. However, the bruising may not show until some time later or it may not show at all. Bruising can sometimes occur some distance from the affected joint, as blood from the damaged tissue seeps along the muscles and around the joint before coming close to the skin.
Common Symptoms of Strain
The symptoms of a muscle strain will largely depend on how severe the injury is. Symptoms generally include:
•pain in the affected muscle
•muscle spasms (when the muscles contract tightly and painfully)
•loss of some, or all, of the function in the affected muscle
•blood collecting under the skin at the site of the strain – this is known as a haematoma and it looks like a large, dark-red bruise
The Sprains and Strains Grading System
There are two grading systems that are used to assess the seriousness of a sprain or strain. The grading systems are based on the extent of the damage to the muscles and ligaments.
The grading system that is used for sprains uses a series of grades from one to three:
- A grade one sprain – mild stretching of your ligament has taken place
- A grade two sprain – there has been a partial rupture (splitting) of your ligament but the joint it is associated with is still stable
- A grade three sprain – there has been a complete rupture of the ligament and the joint is unstable
The grading system that is used for muscle strains uses a series of degrees from first degree to third degree, as outlined below.
- First degree strain – mild straining of the muscles fibres has taken place but only a few fibres have been stretched or torn. The muscle will be painful and tender, but you should still be able to use it normally. However, if the pain in your muscle is very severe, you may decide not to use it until the muscle has healed.
- Second degree strain – moderate straining of the muscle fibres has taken place with a greater number of stretched or torn fibres. You will experience more severe pain and tenderness. There is also mild swelling, noticeable bruising and a distinct loss of strength in the affected muscle.
- Third degree strain – the muscle has been splint into two or torn away from its tendon (a band of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone). You will lose all use of the affected muscle.
When is The Right Time To Seek Medical Help
You should visit your GP or another healthcare professional if you have a sprain or strain under following health conditions;
•you have severe pain and cannot put any weight on the injured joint or muscle
•the injured area looks crooked or has lumps or bumps (other than swelling) that are not usually present
•you cannot move the injured joint
•the limb gives way when you try to use the joint
•you have numbness in any part of the injured area
•the pain has not improved after four days of self-treatment