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How to treat Sprains and Strains

We continue to prod you to exercise to control your diabetes, to strengthen all of your muscles including your heart and yet we all know that exercise can mean sprains and strains so we thought we’d give you some information about these banes of our existences. We’re hoping that this information will keep you in the gym and not in the doctor’s office.

Lets start with Sprains

The joints of our bodies are supported by ligaments which are strong bands of connective tissue that connect one bone to another. A sprain is simply a stretch or tear of the ligaments. The areas of the body that are most vulnerable to sprains are your ankles, knees, and wrist. A sprained ankle can happen when your foot turns inward. This can put extreme tension on the ligaments of your outer ankle and cause the sprain. A sprained knee can be the result of a sudden twist. Wrist sprains most often occur when you fall on an outstretched hand.

What is a Strain?

Your bones are supported by a combination of muscles and tendons. Tendons connect muscles to bones. A strain is the result of an injury to either a muscle or tendon, usually in your foot or leg. The strain may be a simple stretch in your muscle or tendon, or it may be a painful or complete tear in the muscle-and-tendon combination.

The treatment for a sprain is the same as for a strain. This should be followed by simple exercises to relieve pain and restore mobility. For a serious tear, you may need surgery.

Do not wait to call the doctor if your sprained joint won’t bear weight or move normally, the pain becomes intolerable, or the swelling or bruising increases despite treatment. If the area around the sprain or strain turns blue, feels cold and numb, call the doctor. If the body part looks crooked or is the wrong shape, call the doctor. If you see a bone sticking out in the injured area, call the doctor. If you can’t move the injured part of the body, call the doctor. If it hurts to press along the effected bone area, call the doctor.

How to treat Sprains and Strains

Most mild sprains and strains heal with P.R.I.C.E. protect, rest, ice, compress, elevate. Many professionals add exercise to this. Moderate sprains may need a period of time of bracing and the most severe sprains may require surgery to repair torn ligaments.

Protect the area from further injury. Use an elastic wrap, splint, sling, air cast, cane or crutches, rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort.

Ice the area immediately, even if you are seeking medical care. Use an ice pack or slush bath for about 15 minutes each time you apply the ice. Repeat every 2 or 3 hours while you are awake for the first 48 to 72 hours. Cold reduces the pain, swelling and inflammation in injured muscles, joints, and connecting tissues. It may also slow bleeding if a tear has occurred. If the area turns white, stop treatment immediately. This could indicate frostbite. If you have vascular disease, rheumatism or decreased sensation, talk with your doctor before applying ice.

Compress the area with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops. Don’t wrap too tightly or you may hinder circulation. Begin wrapping at the end farthest from your heart. Loosen the wrap if the pain increases, the area becomes numb or swelling is occurring below the wrapped area.

Elevate the injured area above the area of the heart, especially at night. Gravity helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid.

Continue with P.R.I.C.E. treatment for as long as it helps you recover. Over-the-counter pain medication can also be helpful. Ask your doctor to suggest one that is compatible with your diabetes regime. If you apply heat to the injured area, wail until the swelling has subsided.

After the first two days, gently begin to use the injured area. You should see a gradual, progressive improvement in the joint’s ability to support your weight or to move without pain. Be careful not to overindulge while you are not exercising. This is not the time to chow down on treats all day long. The good news is that mild to moderate sprains and strains usually heal in a week or two. If any of the symptoms persist, such as instability, swelling or pain, call your doctor.

How to prevent accidents that lead to sprains and strains

In your home:

  • Clear your path around the house of clutter. In the winter, make sure you have someone remove ice and snow.
  • Wear shoes and boots in bad weather with non-skid soles.
  • Install sturdy hand rails on both sides of the stairways.
  • Use rubber mats or adhesive-backed strips in bathtubs and showers. Install a support bar.
  • Make sure light switches are located near the entrance to a room both inside and as you enter a home.
  • Use a night light between the bedroom and bathroom or in the hall way.
  • Floor coverings should be made skid proof. Vinyl floors should be cleaned with non-skid wax. All carpeting should be skid-proof.
  • Don’t use a ladder unless you know it is steady and if you have someone to help steady you.

When you exercise:

  • Ease into any exercise program. Start off with activities of low intensity, frequency, and duration and build up gradually, especially if you have not exercised recently.
  • Do warm-up exercises such as those that stretch the muscles before your activity. This is important for any activity, even less vigorous ones like golf. Never warm up by bouncing.
  • Don’t overdo it. If muscles or joints start to hurt, back off. No one can make up for years of non-exercise in a week. Do have an evaluation of your strengths and weakness before you begin an exercise program. If done by a professional, you will get an exercise program customized for you.
  • Go through a cool-down period after you exercise. This should last about 5 minutes. You can do the same thing you were doing only slower. For example, if you are power walking, you can meander slowly to cool down.
  • Maintain a good level of physical fitness. Don’t stop and start exercise programs without knowing what you can do.
  • Wrap weak joints with support bandages before strenuous activity.
  • Strengthen weak muscles with rehabilitative exercises to prevent a recurrence.

If you have to visit the doctor what will happen?

A complete medical history should be taken, complete with all of your medications and the reasons you are taking them. Depending on the extent of the injury, x-rays of their injured area, CT scan or MRI may be ordered. Surgery may be ordered if the ligaments are badly torn. A cast may be necessary for severe sprains or following surgery. Following cast removal, you will wear support bandages for a while. Air cast type devices are very effective. Complications include permanent weakness if the sprain is severe or if the joint is sprained repeatedly. You can also develop arthritis. However, with appropriate treatment and rest, 6-8 weeks for recovery may be needed. A longer recovery may be needed for a more severe injury.

We have shared these facts to help you protect yourself and others from sprains and strains. Nothing can supersede information and care. Make sure you visit your doctor first for medical clearance before you start an exercise. Go to a professional trainer who can evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and set up a program for you, not your friends. Stick to the program as written, adding more repetitions and weights as your body allows. Unless you are training for the Olympics, compete only with yourself. Another way to say that is to learn to listen to your body and stop when it is aching. Soon, you too will gain the benefits of exercise, that good look, the good feelings, and the good health.