Sprains and Strains and Joints that Hurt
First, what’s the difference between a sprain and a strain?
A sprain refers to the overstretching or tearing of ligaments, the bands of fibrous tissue that hold together two bones in a joint.
A strain is when the same things that happens to muscles, or to the dense cords of tendons that connect that muscle tissue to bone.
So now you know.
The most common joint injury is the ankle sprain. Ouch.
But wrists, knees, elbows, hips, thumbs and shoulders can also suffer these kinds of painful injuries.
Sprains tend to bruise more than strains. Strains are more likely to cause muscle spasms. Other than the pain, both cause swelling, as well as reduced movement and flexibility for the unlucky patient. Numbness and tingling round out the list of discomforts.
With all we do, joint sprains and strains are not uncommon.
Do you push too hard, when running or exercising? Do you forget to warm up, or take breaks? Your first experience with joint sprain or strain may help improve your memory in the future.
Repetitive motion over a long period of time can gradually contribute to that overstretched and torn tissue. Even standing or sitting in an awkward position can stress muscles, ligaments and tendons. Sure, we’re more susceptible when we’re older, but being young doesn’t give us a free pass.
And of course, a good slip and fall will put the joint momentarily under pressure, leading to you-know-what. So avoid wet or slippery surfaces, and if you simply can’t, then step lively without sliding your feet.
The good news is, joints injuries often heal on their own.
As long as you’re following the ‘RICE’ program, that is. What’s That?
Rest that part of the body – of course. If it’s your ankle or knee that’s ailing, find yourself a good book, or start a new series on Netflix, to get you through the downtime and distract you from the pain.
Ice, wrapped in a towel, helps reduce swelling and inflammation.
Compression, in the form of a compression sock or sleeve, or the appropriate brace, helps improve stability, and can also help with that swelling.
Elevate the injured area above the level of your heart.
Do your part, and you’ll find the pain decrease and your range of motion increase over a few weeks.
The bad news is, sometimes home remedies don’t cut it.
After those few weeks, it may be time to see your doctor, who can rule out bone fractures by scheduling you for an x-ray or MRI.
Anti-inflammatory meds can be prescribed, but can’t be used long-term, plus they treat the symptoms, not the actual problem.
Surgery is an option to repair the worst joint sprains and strains, but any measure that carries its own risks should be considered a last resort.
The other good news is, now there’s the Regenerative Medicine approach.
This relatively new branch of medicine offers a natural health alternative by injecting healing agents that the body itself produces.
These ‘amniotic products’ are derived from amniotic fluid and the placenta, and speed up the normal healing process in all kinds of bodily tissue. Regen Med treatment can also fight persistent inflammation.
Different injuries and conditions call for different types of injections. These variations offer different proportions of growth factors, anti-inflammatory factors, and cytokines that direct specific healing activities in the injured area. Stem cells can actually enhance injured cells with the proteins they need, as well as provide coded directions on healing through DNA and mRNA.
Amazing stuff – and researchers are still exploring all the possibilities.
Not a first step for that sprained elbow.
In the case of joint sprains and strains, the Regenerative Medicine approach is reserved for when you’re still hurting after three or four months without noticeable improvement.
Although this approach generally offers noticeable improvement, outcomes vary. A sprained knee from a bad fall by an older person with osteoarthritis can’t be expected to heal and return to function as completely as a 16-year-old with a relatively minor sprain.