Skin health – Aug 10, 2022
Can adults catch chickenpox?
Most people catch chickenpox before the age of 10, but adults can catch it too. The symptoms tend to be more severe, so read our guide on when to get help.
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We’ve all felt that horrible feeling when a joint feels like it’s jolted or jarred out of place. Whether you’ve hurt yourself running, playing sport or falling over, it can be hard to know if the pain is caused by a sprain, a strain or even a fracture.
Knowing what to do if you or someone else is injured can help to ease the pain and start the healing process. The best way to treat minor sprains is to follow the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate.
A sprain is a common injury that happens when you stretch or tear a ligament (the strong elastic band of tissue that connects the end of one bone to another in a joint).
It happens usually as a result of sudden movement to the affected joint out of its normal range of movement. This leads to a stretch or tear of the ligament. Ankle, wrist, knee and thumb sprains are the most common.
Though their symptoms are quite similar, the main difference between a sprain and strain is that a strain tends to affect the muscle, while a sprain affects the ligaments.
A strain happens when you stretch or tear a muscle or tendon (the strong tissue that attaches muscle to bone). It’s usually caused by stretching the affected muscle beyond its normal range of movement. Foot, hamstring and back strains are the most common.
|Stretch or tear of a ligament||Stretch or tear of a muscle or tendon|
|Commonly affects the ankles, wrists, knees and thumbs||Commonly affects the feet, hamstring and back|
If you have a sprain, you’ll likely experience these symptoms in the affected area:
A sprained ankle can be caused by landing awkwardly on your feet after jumping or twisting your ankle as a result of a fall or during exercise. It can also happen when you experience direct trauma to your ankle – for example, someone stepping on your ankle when playing a team sport.
Key symptoms of a sprained ankle:
A sprained wrist is caused by an impact to the wrist that forces it to move out of its normal range of movement. This can happen when you put your arms out to brace for a fall, during a car accident or when playing a sport.
Key symptoms of a sprained wrist:
A sprained knee can be caused by any movement that stretches the ligaments in the knee. This can include a sudden twisting of the knee joint, falling on your knees or a sudden collision or trauma to your knee in an accident or while playing a sport.
Key symptoms of a sprained knee:
The first thing to do if you think you have a sprain is to perform RICE therapy. This is a simple 4-step process that helps to reduce any swelling:
In the first few days of RICE therapy, try to avoid heat from heat packs or hot showers and baths. This will prevent any more swelling.
When you’re able to move the joint without a lot of pain, do your best to keep moving it to prevent it from stiffening.
As well as following the RICE method, you can also take some over-the-counter painkillers to help relieve pain and tenderness in the joint. Paracetamol is a good first option to try to manage the pain. You could also use ibuprofen gel, cream or spray on the joint to manage the pain and swelling
There are some symptoms to look out for that might suggest you need to seek medical help. If you experience any of these symptoms, call 111 to seek further help:
This can vary depending on the severity of the sprain. Most sprains tend to improve after 2 weeks and get back to normal after 12 weeks, but a more severe sprain can take a few months to heal completely.
There are some simple things you can do to prevent a sprain in the future:
You should speak to a doctor if your symptoms haven’t improved after a few weeks or if you experience any of the red flag symptoms included above.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi.