Urgent Care - Gardendale
210 Fieldstown Road, Suite 124
Gardendale, AL 35071

First, some terminology:

Tendons connect muscle to bone.

Ligaments connect bone to bone in and around joints

A strain is a stretching and sometimes tearing of a muscle or tendon. Most of the time, the tear is microscopic but may be much larger, especially in muscle. When a large muscle is strained beyond the strength of muscle fibers, a large tear can occur and cause considerable bruising and pain.

A sprain is usually defined as a joint injury where the joint is forced beyond the limits of its normal range of motion. Ligaments are injured in sprains. Although ligaments have a very small blood supplied compared to muscles rich blood supply, a ligament tear bleeds nonetheless; hence, swelling with an ankle sprain.

The most common sprains are due to falls, trips over uneven surfaces or stairs, and unusual or persistent force against the ligaments of a given joint. Many times, you may not recall precisely how or when you sprained a joint; it will simply start to hurt and swell. As an example,  this is especially common with a quick inward turn of the ankle that only hurts a few minutes and then is forgotten, but then is much sorer in a day or two.

The most common strains are to the lower back, the neck, and, leg muscles with athletic activity.

Sprains and strains are treated much the same: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Although all are effective, some parts of RICE are more important for certain sprains and strains. Ankle/foot, hand/finger, and knee sprains and strains all require elevation more than anything else: Hand at eye level, ankle/foot higher than the knee, knee higher than the hip.

Ice-for the first 48 hours. Compression such as an Ace wrap can be effective but be sure you know how to properly apply it. Meds: NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and naproxen (advil and aleve) are more effective than tylenol. Both relieve pain but NSAIDS also help decrease swelling when taken regularly in adequate doses. Never exceed recommended doses without consulting with a health care professional.

Muscles in general, heal quickly and reliably. Ligaments may take longer to heal and, in fact, may require several weeks of care.

In summary, most sprains and strains can be treated at home with RICE and some common sense. Limit activity as appropriate to the injury. If you foot is swollen and you continue to walk on it, be assured it will stay swollen. Let your swollen hand hang at your side, it will  stay swollen and you'll have more pain than if you hold it at eye level, be friendly, and say "hi" to everyone.

It's time to see us at VMAC if, within a couple of days,  you do not have significant improvement with basic care, especially if the strain or sprain is such that it interferes with necessary daily activity or wakes you at night because of pain.