Let pain be your guide, not your limiter.
Strain or Sprain means an overstretching or tearing of ligaments, tendons, fascia or muscles. You will typically experience pain, swelling, bruising, limited ability to move the affected joint, and can hear or feel a "pop" in your joint at the time of injury.
The symptoms of a Sprain include:
- not being able to use the joint.
The symptoms of a Strain include:
- muscle spasms
- trouble moving
It is important to see a doctor if you have a painful sprain or strain. This helps you get the right treatments. The amount of time you need to fully heal after a sprain or strain depends on the person and the type of injury. If you try to return to normal activities or sports too soon, you may injure the area again.
A sprain happens when the damage occurs to the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together in your joints.
- Grade 1 sprain (mild): Slight stretching and some damage to the fibers (fibrils) of the ligament.
- Grade 2 sprain (moderate): Partial tearing of the ligament. There is abnormal looseness (laxity) in the joint when it is moved in certain ways.
- Grade 3 sprain (severe): Complete tear of the ligament. This causes significant instability and makes the joint nonfunctional. These injuries sometimes require surgery.
A strain involves an injury to a muscle, fascia (think about a spiderweb wrapped around a muscle that attaches it to things) or to the band of tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone (known as a tendon).
- Grade 1: Mild damage to individual muscle fibers (less than 5% of fibers) that causes minimal loss of strength and motion.
- Grade 2: More extensive damage with more muscle fibers involved. However, the muscle is not completely ruptured. These injuries present with significant loss of strength and motion.
- Grade 3: Complete rupture of a muscle or tendon. These can present a defect in the muscle or tendon that you can feel. Swelling in the area may make this difficult to notice. These injuries sometimes require surgery.
One of the most common sprain/strains we see in our office is whiplash. Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Whiplash is commonly caused by rear-end car accidents, sports accidents, physical abuse, and falls. Whiplash may be called a neck sprain or strain, but these terms also include other types of neck injuries.
Signs and symptoms of whiplash usually develop within days of the injury, and may include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
Some people also have:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems