Minor Sprains & Strains: The “RICE” Approach

A sprain is defined as an injury in the ligament. A ligament meanwhile is a part of the body which is characterized as a fibrous tissue with thick and though properties. The ligament is there to connect bones together and keep them that way. When it comes to injuries, the most commonly injured ligaments are those that are found in the knee, ankle, and the wrist. Usually, the injury is caused by overstretching from the usual position and in most instances, minor sprains heal quickly.

When there is too much force placed on the ligament, it will eventually be torn, damaged, or stretched. This happens in accidents like in a fall and when the ligament is  stretched, torn or damaged, it is called a sprain.

A strain on the other hand is another type of injury, but this time it is situated in the muscle or tendon. The muscles in the body are there to guide the skeleton in movement. When the muscle works, it will contract and eventually pulls on a tendon. The tendon is a component connected to the bone and muscles. Although muscles are meant to be stretchable, they can also experience injury when they are stretched too far. This is where minor strains happen. A strain can either be overstretching or a tear in the muscle or tendon.

What Causes Sprains and Strains?

We have mentioned earlier that sprain is primarily caused by a ligament overworked. And since it usually affects the ankle, the sprain is popularly called as a twisted ankle. Those who engage in running, hiking, and sports like basketball are the ones most vulnerable to incurring sprain. Likewise, an individual who steps on an uneven surface or floor may experience the same.

There are serious sprains and there are minor sprains. Categorically speaking, the classification is primarily on the extent or seriousness of the injury. For instance, Grade I and II can be treated by icing or physical therapy. Grade III on the other hand is more serious and it can even lead to permanent ankle disability.

Strains on the other hand are those injuries to the muscles and tendons. When you pull too far on your muscle or if you pull it in one direction during contraction in the opposite direction, it will eventually lead to muscle or tendon injury. But aside from that, strains are also attributed to chronic activities.

The good news is that there are ways to prevent the likelihood of minor sprains and strains. Although it remains true that people only follow these ways the moment they already experience either. The prevention tips are:

  1. Stretching before doing any physical activity
  2. Wearing the right footwear and gear for a physical activity
  3. Warming up before getting physical in an activity or sports
  4. Avoiding icy and uneven surfaces

Knowing the Signs

The most common symptoms of minor sprains are pain, some swelling, and a significant amount of bruising of the affected area. As for the more serious Grade III, there may be the lack of ability to use the affected joint and eventually, joint instability. The minor sprains on the other hand are mostly characterized by pain when moved.

“RICE” Treatment

For minor sprains and strains, there is really no need to go to the hospital or clinic to seek treatment. The most effective and fastest solution is the “RICE” method. But if you are unsure as to the severity of the injury, you will have to consult your doctor first. So what is the RICE treatment? Here’s a look:

RICE basically stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate.

Rest – Keep in mind that the first 24 hours of the injury is a crucial treatment period. This is the period where any physical activity will have to be postponed, hence the term “rest.” You will need to avoid any activities that will cause pain. You also want to use support like splint, sling, or crutches.

Ice – For the first 48 hours of the post injury period, you need to ice the sprain or strain. It has to be twenty minutes at a time and it has to be done every four hours.

Compression – Now you’re going to use compression when elevating the injury. This is done in the early treatment. What you need to do is get a bandage and then wrap the area overlapping the elastic wrap by about a half of the width of the wrap. It should be snug.

Elevate – Finally, make sure you keep your injury, be it sprain or strain higher than your heart. You can do this by elevating at night by using pillows under the arm or leg that is injured.

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