A sprain is a common injury that most of us have experienced at one time or another, however it is also one that can be very painful and quite a serious problem in the long run if untreated. When you injure your sprain you will often feel shock and a sharp pain, and it can be hard to know what to do for best. Here we will look at the best treatment for a sprain, as well as what a sprain is and how it occurs.
What Is a Sprain?
To treat a sprain you should first understand properly what one is. Essentially a sprain is similar to a pulled muscle in which the muscle fibers are ripped through an awkward movement resulting in discomfort and restricted movement (as well as sometimes a physical gap which can be felt in the muscle). The difference between a sprain and a pulled muscle however is that in the case of a sprain it is not the muscle that is ripped but rather the connective tissue (for instance the tendons). This then of course has a similar result of causing the ligament to become sore and tender and to reduce movement while it heals.
The way this often happens is through suddenly and forcefully stretching it too far. The most common sprains are in the wrist or in the ankle and this tends to happen when they are twisted in a violent manner outside of their usual range of movement. So for instance if your ankle twists on a curb or if you fall and put your hand out flat to stop yourself.
The immediate treatment for a sprain is to take all weight off of it and to rest it. If the individual has sprained their wrist then for instance, then the recommended advice is that they lie down and take their weight off of their foot. The main objective from here on is to combat swelling and prevent it from ballooning up, and to do this there are several steps to take:
Place a cold pack on the area. Do not use ice directly on the flesh as this can cause tissue damage and make the joints ache. Rather use something between the skin and the ice – for instance wrap the ice in a tea cloth. Be certain not to use the ice for more than 20 minutes at a time as this can cause more damage also.
Keep the area elevated. This will help to drain fluids out of it and thereby reduce the swelling. Keep it above the heart to prevent blood from pooling in the area.
Use a compress such as a tube sock or a bandage. Don't make this too tight however or you may end up cutting off the blood supply and causing damage.
Use an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen.
At the same time you should also treat the individual themselves and specifically for both shock and for the pain. To treat the shock all you need to do is get them something warm and sugary to help them relax and replace blood sugar. Again it's important for them to sit or lie down as this will make it easier for the blood to get to the head and prevent fainting. To treat pain meanwhile, use a painkiller such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Sprains of course can vary greatly in severity and kind and this will impact how long they take to recover etc. As a rule it should take around 2-5 weeks to recover. There are some things you can do to speed up this recovery however. For instance it can help to make sure you get lots of rest and sleep and that you eat lots of protein. Your body uses the amino acids in protein in order to make all manner of repairs around the body and much of these repairs will occur at night during sleep when growth hormone levels are high, so doing this will help to encourage your body to fix itself.
Another thing to consider is that you should not refrain completely from moving the joint or using it. Doing so can cause the tendons to heal incorrectly or to become tight and result in a restricted range of movement. As you start to heal, try to gently use the affected limb and start to bring it back into regular use.
If the sprain is very severe then it is a good idea to a visit a doctor. They will be able to first and foremost ensure that it is in fact a sprain that you are suffering from and to rule out other possible causes for the pain such as fracture. This will be achieved using imaging technology such as Xrays and MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging). At the same time if the injury is very bad then you may require stitches in order to help repair the torn tendon.
There are also various things that doctors can do to aid medication and ease discomfort and these include prescribing strong analgesics, providing splints or crutches to help you take some of the weight and pressure off of the affected area, using orthotics such as insoles in your shoes to help realign the area, or using physiotherapy in order to help you regain your full range of movement and encourage proper recover.