Sprains, strains and tears

Sprain

A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament. Ligaments stabilise and support the body's joints. Direct or indirect trauma (a fall or collision etc) that overstretches and puts the joint out of position can cause a sprain. You will usually feel a pop or tear in the joint. Pain, bruising and inflammation are common in mild, moderate and severe sprains.

If you have a severe sprain, intense pain is produced as soon as the injury occurs as ligaments tear or separate from the bone. The joint is not functional with a severe sprain.

If you have a moderate sprain, you will experience instability in the joint with some swelling.

If you have a mild sprain, the ligament is stretched, but there is no loosening of the joint.

Strain

A strain is a tear, twist and/or pull of a muscle and/or tendon. Tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bone. Strains are the result of prolonged, repetitive movement. A lack of a rest break during intensive training, overstretching, a collision etc can cause a strain.

With a strain, you are likely to experience muscle weakness, muscle spasm, pain, inflammation, swelling and cramping.

If you have a severe strain, the muscle/tendon is partially or completely ruptured.

If you have a moderate strain, the muscle/tendon is overstretched and slightly ruptured.

If you have a mild strain, the muscle/tendon is slightly pulled or stretched.

Tear

A tear is commonly referred to as a muscle strain which occurs when excessive stress is placed on a muscle beyond its capability causing the fibres to tear.

You will usually experience swelling, bruising, pain and tenderness with a tear. Unless you have severe or on-going pain, a muscle tear is treatable by yourself.

A sprain strain or tear can happen to anyone; however, you are at more risk if you are overweight or out of shape.

Treatment

RICE - Rest, Ice, Compress & Elevate!
This will help minimize the damage. When using an ice pack, do not leave it on the injury for longer than 20 minutes and do not put on bare skin. When elevating, ensure that the injury is higher than your heart to prevent blood from pooling around the injury.

Unless your injury is mild, it is important that you seek medical help.