A sprain is an injury that occurs to a ligament, muscle, or connective tissue that connects muscles and bones (tendons) . This condition generally occurs in areas that are actively moving, such as the ankle or the back of the thigh.
Ligaments, muscles, and tendons work to keep movement stable. In the condition of a sprain, one or maybe all three experience excessive stretching or even tearing. As a result, movement becomes limited and less stable.
Sprains can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the severity. A mild sprain usually only causes a little pain and does not interfere with movement, while a severe sprain can cause pain to the point of numbness , as well as interfere with movement.
Causes of Sprains
The main cause of sprains is excessive stretching of ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Sprains generally occur when a person does activities that put pressure on the joint, such as:
- Walking or exercising on uneven terrain
- Performing rotating movements during sports, such as in athletics and rhythmic gymnastics
- Landing or falling in the wrong position
- Doing the wrong training technique when exercising
Sprain risk factors
There are several conditions that can increase the risk of sprains, namely:
- Does not have good muscle proportions
- Being overweight or obese
- Using inappropriate sports equipment, such as shoes that are no longer suitable for use
- Not doing muscle stretching or warming up before athletics
- Forcing the body to perform activities when the body is tired or in poor condition
- Doing activities in poor environmental conditions, such as wet and slippery ground surfaces
- Have a history of previous sprains
Sprain symptoms can be different for each sufferer, depending on the severity. However, generally the symptoms that arise in the part of the body that has a sprain are:
- Feeling pain
- Limited mobility
A mild sprain usually only causes pain that is not too severe and does not cause bruising. Whereas in severe enough sprains, sufferers can hear a tearing or "pop" sound in the joints when they are injured.
When should you go to the doctor?
Mild sprains can usually be treated independently at home. However, see a doctor if symptoms do not improve for 5-7 days. In addition, see a doctor immediately if you experience symptoms such as:
- Severe pain when the injured area is touched or moved
- Severe bruising
- Numbness or tingling in the injured area
- There is a physical change in the injured area, such as bending or breaking
- Signs of infection, such as fever
To diagnose a sprain, the doctor will ask questions about the symptoms and complaints experienced, as well as activities such as what causes the complaints to appear. After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination on the affected part.
During the physical examination, the doctor may move the suspected sprained body part and ask the patient to move it independently. This step helps the doctor to know the severity level that occurs.
Generally, the doctor can confirm the diagnosis with just a physical examination. However, the doctor can also perform some supporting examinations to see some other conditions that may occur. Supporting examinations that can be done are:
- X- ray , to detect broken bones or other damage
- Musculoskeletal ultrasound, to see the condition of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and cartilage in injured joints
- MRI examination or CT scan, to see more clearly the damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, or other structures close to the area of injury
If the sprain still causes severe pain after 6 weeks from the injury, the patient is advised to undergo an advanced X-ray examination. The purpose is to detect additional tears or small cracks in the bone that may not have appeared or been covered by swelling in the previous examination.
Sprain treatment aims to relieve symptoms, such as pain and swelling, and enable the patient to return to normal activities. Some of the treatments that can be done are:
To deal with mild sprains or speed up recovery after treatment, patients can do self-care at home by:
- Resting the injured part, for example by using crutches, for at least 2 days or until the pain subsides
- Compress the injured part using ice wrapped in a towel for 15–20 minutes every 3 hours, for 3 days
- Wrap an elastic bandage on the injured part to reduce swelling
- Positioning the injured part higher than the body, especially when lying down or sitting
- Consuming over-the-counter painkillers at pharmacies, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen , according to the directions on the packaging
In addition, there are several things that need to be considered to speed up the recovery process, namely:
- Avoid hot baths, saunas, or hot compresses, as they can make blood vessels dilate and increase blood flow, thus worsening swelling and bruising.
- Avoid alcohol consumption as it can worsen the swelling.
- Avoid physical activity or heavy sports involving the injured part, such as running, because it can worsen the condition.
- Avoid massaging the injured part, as it can aggravate the swelling and risk causing bleeding. Massage can usually only be done 3 days after the injury occurred or when the pain is over
In addition to self-care, there are several medical treatments that can be performed by a doctor to treat sprains, namely:
Physiotherapy or physical therapy is performed when the pain and swelling experienced by the patient begins to subside. The physiotherapist will provide training to restore the stability and strength of the joint in the injured part, so that the patient can gradually perform activities normally.
The use of braces
In cases of severe sprains, additional handling is required, for example the use of braces or casts , for approximately 10 days. This is to reduce movement in the sprained area and stabilize the structure in the area.
If the ligament or muscle tear is very severe, for example a total break, and the condition of the joint is very unstable, the doctor will advise the patient to undergo surgery.
Sprains that are not treated properly can cause complications in the form of:
- Joint dislocation
- Cracks in the bones that support the joint
- Recurrent pain and swelling
- Tears in the muscles
- Cartilage injury
Do the following to prevent sprains:
- Wear safe and comfortable shoes in all activities, especially when exercising, and make sure the size is right.
- Avoid wearing high heels, if not needed.
- Do exercise regularly, but don't overdo it.
- Warm up and stretch before starting exercise.
- Avoid doing strenuous exercise without an instructor or without prior training.
- Avoid sitting or standing for too long. It's best to take a break and stretch every now and then.
- Be careful when walking on wet, slippery, or uneven roads.
- Use special equipment or protection when exercising, especially if you have sprained before.