Sprains: Symptoms, Treatment, Recovery Time & More
Each sport has its own common injuries and they are largely based on the physical demands of the sport. This is also the case with weight lifting. Lifting weights helps build muscle mass, tone the body, increase strength and boost metabolism, but improper techniques can result in painful or debilitating injuries. The most common sports-related injuries are ligament sprains. Ligaments are fibrous, connective tissues that connect bones providing stability within joints and limiting movement of the limbs. An overstretched or torn ligament is known as a sprain. In this article you will find out everything you need to know about ligament sprains: key symptoms, causes, diagnosis, classification, and treatment.
Definition and overview
A sprain is a tear (partial or complete tearing) or stretch of a ligament, which is the band of connective tissues joining the end of one bone to another bone. They will most likely occur when a joint goes through an excessive range of motion beyond its normal range. In other words, they typically occur from a fall or a blow to the body knocking the joint out of position, and possibly rupturing the supporting ligaments. Sprains can occur in any joint but are most common in the ankle and wrist.
Signs and symptoms of a sprain
A partial or complete tear of a ligament comes with these symptoms:
- Severe pain, which may prevent the person from moving or using the joint and then tenderness;
- Swelling of the area due to fluid oozing from torn vessels under the skin;
- Bruising. Discolored skin around the joint resulting from bleeding from torn blood vessels;
- Often an audible “popping sound”;
- Loss of function and instability;
These signs and symptoms can vary in intensity, depending on the severity of the sprain.
It is often difficult to distinguish between a severe sprain and a fracture because their signs and symptoms are similar.
Where do sprains usually occur? Al already stated, sprains can occur in any joint but are most common in the ankle and wrist. These are the most vulnerable areas for type of injury.
- ankle sprain – typically occurs when your foot turns inward as you run, turn, fall, or land on the ankle after a jump;
- wrist sprain – happens typically when people fall and land on an outstretched hand;
- knee sprain – a blow to the knee or a fall is often the cause as well as sudden twisting;
Likely aetiology (causes of ligament sprains)
Sprains are usually caused by a direct trauma to a joint such as a tackle. However, they can also be caused indirectly by twisting or falling in the absence of a blow or collision.
- Joint is twisted or stretched beyond its normal range of motion;
- It can result from a fall, a sudden twist, or a blow to the body that forces a joint out of its normal position;
- When people fall and land on an outstretched arm, slide into base, land on the side of their foot, or twist a knee with the foot planted firmly on the ground.
The difference between a sprain and a strain
We often use these two terms interchangeably to describe overstretching or tearing of soft tissues in and around your joints. Sprains and strains share many common symptoms, but they are different conditions. The term sprain refers to an injury of the ligaments, as opposed to a strain, which refers to an injury of the muscle or tendon. Remember ligaments attach bone to bone, where as tendons attach muscle to bone.
Classification of sprains
Sprains can range from minor to severe. Your doctor will likely put your sprain at one of three “grades” based on the amount of damage:
- A first-degree sprain is a minor tear of the ligament. This is the least severe case. It is accompanied by mild local pain, some swelling and joint stiffness. The function of the joint isn’t too affected. There is usually very little loss of joint stability as a result of a first-degree sprain/strain.
- A second-degree sprain is the result of both stretching and some tearing of the ligaments (partial tear of the ligament fibers). Considerable swelling, pain, and loss of function are likely with this level of sprain. You can expect moderate loss of stability around the joint and pain even at rest.
- A third-degree sprain is a total rupture of the ligament fibers. This will result in massive swelling, severe pain and gross instability. You will hear “popping sound” if the incident is sudden or traumatic. One interesting point to note about a third-degree sprain is that shortly after the injury, most of the pain may disappear. This is a result of the nerve endings being severed, which causes a lack of feeling at the injury site.
As ligaments are relatively avascular (having a poor blood supply), they take more time to heal than muscle tissue. The lack of blood supply makes it more difficult to get nutrients to the site to aid healing; it is also less capable of eliminating waste products.
- I-degree sprain. With the correct treatment and care, recovery from a first-degree sprain can take about 2—3 weeks.
- II-degree sprain. Recovery is likely to take about 3-6 weeks.
- III-degree- sprain. Recovering from a third-degree sprain can take upwards of 3—4 months or more following surgery.
- History taking and physical examination (inspection, palpation, weight-bearing status and functional tests). Often, the history and physical examination are all that’s needed. If the injury is severe, your doctor may recommend one or more of the imaging scans to get the better picture about the injury;
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
- CT scan;
Treatment of ligament sprains
What to do? Most sprains do not require medical care. If recuperation seems long, consult a physician. Until then use RICE procedure:
- Rest. Remove weight from and avoid movement of the injured joint.
- Ice. Apply an ice pack for about 20 minutes; an elastic bandage can be applied to keep the ice pack in place. Cold causes blood vessels in the injured area to constrict which lessens oozing of fluids and resultant swelling. Remember, don’t apply heat for the first 48 hours! Heat causes the vessels to dilate (vasodilation), which increases the amount of fluid that seeps from broken vessels and swelling will increase.
- Compression. After the 20 minutes, apply compression with an elastic bandage for 3 to 4 hours.
- Repeat the cycles of an ice pack for 20 minutes and compression for 3 to 4 hours.
- Elevate. Raise the injured part to reduce swelling of the injured part.
There is always a chance chat what you believed to be a sprain or a muscle strain is in reality a fracture. If you are not sure, get to your doctor and get an x-ray. Until then, treat all such injuries as potential fractures.
There are no specific instructions for preventing this type of injury. The best thing you can do is to follow the general rules for preventing sports injuries. Understanding the main causes of most weight lifting injuries will also be very useful.
Closing thoughts about ligament sprains
A sprain occurs when a joint is twisted or stretched beyond its normal range of motion. Bones are held together at joints by tough bands of tissue called ligaments. When a joint is sprained, the ligaments are either partially or completely torn. There are different degrees of sprains, but it is difficult for a first aid provider to classify the degree of a sprain. Sprains most often occur in the knee and the ankle, but can occur in any joint.