Strains and Sprains: Should I See a Doctor?

During the summer months, kids enroll in active summer camps and conditioning for fall sports ramps up; we’re all a little more active, which also makes us prone to sprains and strains.

Matthew Birkle MD, of TriHealth Priority Care, explains what you should do right away and when you should visit a doctor. 

Sprains and Strains: What’s the Difference?

A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the tissue that links bones together at joints, which typically happens in the ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist.

Strains, on the other hand, are tears in muscle tissue and happen most often in the muscles that support the calf, thigh, groin, and shoulder.

I Think I Have a Sprain or Strain: Now What?

While most sprains and strains are usually minor injuries, it’s important to treat them right away, so they don’t become more serious.

Dr. Birkle suggests following the RICE rule:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

“That’s always a good start, and if you have concerns that it’s continuing to swell, be painful or bruise, we will evaluate you to determine if there’s a bone injury,” Dr. Birkle points out.

When Should I See My Doctor?

The first signs that should prompt you to visit a medical professional would be:

  • Significant swelling
  • Bruising
  • Persistent pain 

However, it’s important to note that swelling is not always immediate. “Minor ones (sprains or strains) may not swell up until the next day,” Dr. Birkle explains. “The more immediate, the more areas of the tissues that are involved. So the more intense the strain, sprain or fracture, the sooner it swells and bruises. A minor one will swell overnight.”

Tags: Orthopedics

Last Updated: June 26, 2014