Sprains and strains
sprains; strains; muscles; ligaments; tendons; ankle; hamstring;
Have you ever 'gone over' on your ankle when you were running on the beach, around the oval or when you were playing a sport like netball or tennis?
It can really hurt!
Although it could feel like it, you may not have broken your ankle. You may have overstretched, or even torn, the ligaments which fasten the bones of your ankle to your leg.
We say that you have 'sprained' your ankle.
You can sprain the ligaments in other parts of your body too.
- Maybe your knee when you are walking, dancing, twisting or turning.
- Maybe your wrist if you put out a hand to stop yourself falling and bend your wrist too far.
- Maybe your thumb if you play bat and ball sports or are into activities like skiing or skateboarding.
- You would feel sudden, sharp pain.
- You would swell up round the injury.
- You would see bruising.
- It would be hard to move that part of the body.
- When it happened you may have heard a sound like something popping.
- That part of your body would not feel as strong as usual.
What is a strain?
A strain is stretching and tearing of muscles or tendons. Tendons are the straps which connect muscles to bones. Strains are often in the lower back or the back of the thigh (in the hamstring muscle).
There are 2 kinds of strain.
- An acute strain happens when a muscle becomes pulled or torn when it is stretched too far or too quickly.
- Maybe you slipped running round the pool (it's never a good idea to run where it is slippery).
- Maybe you were running or jumping up or down.
- Maybe you were lifting something too heavy for you or not lifting properly.
- A chronic strain happens when you are overdoing your practising skills and using some muscles too much. Maybe you are a rower, a pitcher, bowler or gymnast. Practice is good but overdoing it can lead to problems like strains. That's why it is good for kids to play different sports which work different areas of the body.
- You would feel pain.
- There would be swelling around the injured part.
- Your muscle may go into spasm which means it goes tight and really hurts until it relaxes.
- It will be hard or painful to move that part of the body.
What you can do
You can do the same things to help if you have a sprain or a strain.
Stop what you are doing and keep still. It is never a good idea to keep playing sport when you have an injury.
Put ice on the part which hurts as soon as you possibly can. You can use ice, a special sports ice pack or even a pack of frozen peas. (Don't put ice directly on to your skin – wrap it in a wet cloth.) Leave on for 20 minutes every 2 hours. Keep this up for about 24 hours (you can go to sleep as usual). This will help keep the swelling down.
This means press something around the injury like a firm bandage or even a scarf. This is to stop swelling and you can still put ice on top of it to make it feel better.
This means lift up the injured part if possible higher than your heart, for example lift your swollen ankle onto a chair while you lie down on the floor. This also helps to keep the swelling down.
What your doctor may do
If you are really hurting it is a good idea to see a doctor.
- will look at your sore part
- will touch it gently
- may ask you to move the part or put some pressure onto it, like asking you to stand if your ankle is sore or try to push against his or her hand.
- You may have the injury x-rayed to check if anything is broken.
- You may have to wear a splint or a temporary cast (hard plaster bandage) for a while to help protect the part and keep it in a comfortable position.
- The doctor may wrap the injury in an elastic bandage.
- Your mum, dad or caregiver may give you some painkillers for a while to help you feel better.
- You may be told to rest until the swelling has gone down and your injured part is feeling better and stronger.
Keep yourself safe from sprains and strains
The best way to save yourself from sprains and strains is to keep your body fit and healthy by exercising regularly.
- Try to do a variety of different exercise every day so that you work all your body rather than just one part. This keeps everything in good condition.
- Don't push yourself too hard as tired muscles are more likely to be damaged.
- Always warm up your body before exercising hard. For example before a bike ride, a run or playing a sport where you are moving fast in short bursts.
- Take care when you are on uneven surfaces or on wet or slippery ground.
Check out the 'smartplay' site for tips on playing your sport safely and to reduce the risk of injury.
Dr Kim says
Most sprains and strains will feel much better after 24 hours of the R.I.C.E. treatment, but usually you will have some pain for several days. If it is a bad strain or sprain it could be longer.
You may need to have treatment from a physiotherapist who will gently warm and manipulate (move around) the area. If a ligament or muscle has been torn and it is not getting better you may need an operation to help everything to heal properly.
We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.