Sprains, Strains, and Breaks
Health care providers attend to millions of Americans with musculoskeletal injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). More than 3 million hospitalizations occur each year because of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries.
Some facts on musculoskeletal injuries:
- Sprains are a stretch and/or tear of a ligament, the tissue connecting two bones. Ligaments stabilize and support the body’s joints. For example, ligaments in the knee connect the upper leg with the lower leg, enabling people to walk and run.
- Strains are a twist, pull and/or tear of a muscle and/or tendon. Tendons are cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.
- Breaks are a fracture, splinter or complete break in bone, often caused by accidents, sports injuries or bone weakness.
- A severe sprain or strain may require surgery or immobilization, followed by physical therapy. Mild sprains and strains may require rehabilitation exercises and a change in activity during recovery.
In all but mild cases, your health care provider should evaluate the injury and establish a treatment and rehabilitation plan.
Meanwhile, rest, ice, compression and elevation (called RICE) usually will help minimize damage caused by sprains and strains. You should start RICE immediately after the injury and continued off-and-on for about 72 hours.
RICE relieves pain, limits swelling and speeds healing, and it is often the best treatment for soft-tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains. Here’s what to do:
- Rest: The injured area should be moved as little as possible to allow healing to begin.
- Ice: Apply it immediately to reduce inflammation, which causes more pain and slows healing. Cover the injured area with an ice pack inside a wet cloth and apply the ice for 10 to 20 minutes intermittently for 48 to 72 hours. Never ice for more than 20 minutes, because it can cause a nerve injury.
- Compression: Using a pressure bandage helps to prevent or reduce swelling. Use an elastic bandage. Wrap the injured area without making it so tight that it will cut off the blood supply.
- Elevation: Raise the injured area above the level of the heart. Prop up a leg or arm while resting it. You may need to lie down to get your leg above your heart level.
Do all four parts of the RICE treatment at the same time. Seek medical attention to confirm the diagnosis and to get proper treatment.
If you think you have a strain or a sprain from an injury, please call or visit one of our conveniently located clinics.
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