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Strains & Sprains

Strains and sprains normally occur at joint areas and involve the soft tissues. Joints are supported or their range of movement controlled by a series of specifically placed ligaments and muscle tendons. In extreme movements involving a joint, these soft tissue structures can become over-stretched and in some instances be partially torn.

Repetitive overuse of the muscle can also lead to a strain. The usual symptoms include localized pain, particularly on movement or certain movements and there may be some swelling. If this has occurred as a result of some kind of trauma, then it is important that the area be X-rayed to exclude a fracture.

Once this has been done the first step is to try and immobilize the area with a support bandage or some kind of packing. If it is part of the lower limb that is affected and there is swelling, then elevation of that limb is important to prevent the swelling from becoming worse and leading to stretching other non-affected supporting tissues.

Bleeding may occur under the skin, so be careful not to bandage too tight. If it looks like there is going to be a bruise or if you are not sure, try using a homeopathic remedy called Arnica, which is very good for speeding up the healing process. Ice packs are also useful if used immediately as they can help to control the swelling and used subsequently can control the inflammation.

Always remember to cover ice packs with something like a cloth or paper towel as ice placed directly on the skin can give you a freezer burn. Ice packs need to be applied for about 20 minutes and used 2-3 times a day for the first few days. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin or Paracetamol are useful, make sure that you can take them as they can interact with other drugs.

If it is the wrist, ankle or the knee that has been strained, it is sometimes particularly useful to invest in a purpose made support which can be worn for a few weeks if you are likely to be using that joint a lot.

The healing process in a healthy young individual can take up to 6 weeks, it can be a lot longer in an older person or someone who has other problems such as diabetes that can slow healing down.

Remember R.I.C.E. -Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

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