Were you working in the garden last weekend and now feel those shoulders?  A little sore after shoveling two yards of dirt? Or, God forbid, a little ankle sprain going for the long ball at the recent Sun Bowl?  Or, worse yet, rear ended at a stop sign? Weekend athletes/workers and victims of trauma alike can get strains or sprains doing activities they love.

Strained muscles and tendons are a common occurrence.  Muscles can be strained by overworking, trauma, repetitive motion and poor posture. Once these muscle become overstretched, or if there is some sort of tearing in the muscle, your brain will register pain and may trigger responses such as swelling/inflammation, muscle spasms, muscle clenching which could result in the reduction of the range of motion in your joints.

Sprains are different and can be much more serious.  A sprain is when tissue that links bones together becomes stretched or damaged.  These tissues are generally ligaments. Some common examples are a sprained ankle or torn ACL in your knee.  A sprain almost always involves a corresponding strain, but the opposite is not necessarily true.

If you suffer from a sprain or strain the initial response should be RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) and if necessary medical consultation.  I like my patients to attend emergency if they cannot weight bear or have limbs that are unable to work against gravity, have extensive bruising/swelling, ‘loose’ joints, extreme pain and paradoxically, no pain or numbness in the joint.  It never hurts to visit a medical professional (your medical doctor, chiropractor, physiotherapist, etc.) anytime after an injury, especially if it is not showing significant improvement in the first 3-5 days.

During the first 48 hours after an injury it is important to control swelling and that is why ice is recommended (20 minutes at a time being watchful of frostbite).  Anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and pain killers may be appropriate if you are unable to rest or sleep.  Do not take prescription medication without the advice of a medical professional.  Elevate and compress to help control the swelling; and of course, rest reduces the likelihood of further injury and aggravation.

After a few days you may be able to resume some activities, being careful not to aggravate your injury.  After 48 hours use heat (20-minute intervals) to increase blood flow to regions of injury.  Once your injury is less painful you can start a program of gentle stretching and increased activity.  Be careful though, intense stretching or too vigorous activity can further exacerbate pre-existing tears.

If you’re going to be active, prevention is likely the best remedy.  Make sure you are properly warmed up before any physical activity by light stretching and mild cardiovascular activity which will lift your body temperature a couple of degrees.  Do what you can to stay fit during the weekdays; one or two short workouts in the gym can go a long way to injury prevention.

Play safe and have a great summer!

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