Staying off Sprain Street

Sprains come in all shapes and sizes - none of which is too fun. Here's how to avoid sprain pain.

temecula personal trainerYou're in the middle of a basketball game, walking at the mall, or working under the hood of your car. Suddenly, a pain springs up that you can't ignore. It's a sprain.

A sprain is a common injury that occurs when you overstretch or tear a ligament somewhere in your body. Elastic bands of tissue, ligaments' job is to connect bones where they meet together in joints such as ankles, knees, wrists, and thumbs. A sprain is common in sports, but it can occur any time you fall or twist in the wrong direction.

What can you do to avoid getting a sprain, and what is the treatment for sprains if you do get one?

Contributing Factors
There are many causes of sprains, and they depend on the ligament sprained.

You are more likely to sprain your ankle if you walk or run on an uneven surface or if you fall on the side of your foot. Spraining your knee occurs during activities during which you pivot or twist your legs. Your wrist is at risk for sprains if you land on your hand during a fall. And believe it or not - you can sprain your thumb. This is most likely to occur during sports such as skiing or those that use a racquet such as tennis. While anyone can suffer a sprain, your muscles are weaker and are more likely to get injured if you're not in good shape.

Fatigue is also a contributing factor in getting a sprain, so calling it quits when you've run out of energy can protect against sprains. Additionally, if you exercise without a sufficient warm up, your muscles and joints will be tight and more prone to tears and stretches.

Prevention
To best avoid sprains, it is important to be in good physical shape. Keep your muscles strong by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising every day. Before you hit the gym hard and heavy, spend a few minutes stretching and warming up. Any time you're tired or have suffered a minor injury, don't fight through it. Get off your feet and rest.

When running or walking, wear shoes that fit well and that offer protection and support. Any time the tread or heels on your shoes wear down, get new shoes. Also, wear the correct protective equipment when playing sports.

When the Unexpected Happens
Unfortunately, accidents happen and sprains do occur. Symptoms of a sprained ligament include pain, bruising, swelling, inability to completely move the injured joint, and possible redness or streaks radiating from the injured area. Another telltale sign? When the sprain occurs, you may hear a popping sound and feel a tear. The pain will begin right away. It may be so severe you think you've broken a bone.

Sprains range from mild to severe. Initial treatment for the pain and swelling are rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).

Rest: Avoid using the joint for the first day or two, and get around by using a cane or crutches if necessary.

Ice: Apply ice to the injured joint 20 minutes, four to eight times a day.

Compression: Use special bandages, splints, casts or boots to squeeze the injured area.

Elevation: Be sure to elevate your ankle, wrist, knee, or thumb on a pillow. This prevents excess blood from causing the sprained area to swell.

Along with RICE treatment, take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen as needed. After treating the pain and swelling for a day or two, it is helpful to gently exercise the affected area to prevent stiffness and strengthen the joint.

In most cases, home treatment is enough to overcome a sprain. However, if pain and swelling are severe or continue after two or three days, head to your physician to determine the next step in treatment.

Frequent Sprains.
While sprains can occur in any ligament, they're most common in the ankle. What are you doing to protect your ligaments?

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