Self Care for Muscle Sprains

Muscle sprains can happen at any time. You may trip on wet pavement, over extend during a game of baseball, or be impacted with an object unaware. Muscle sprains are when there is stress, strain, or tears of a muscle from injury or overuse. Usually these are upon contraction of the muscle and not the extending of it. There are three relative severities of muscle sprains; mild, moderate, and severe. Mild sprains have pain and stiffness for a few days with no tears or need for addition treatment. Moderate sprains have small muscular tears, extreme pain, swelling, bruising, and will last up to three weeks. Severe muscle sprains have the muscle torn and possibly severed. There may be internal bleeding, swelling, bruising, and the muscle itself may be non functioning. With a severe sprain there is dire need for treatment.

To treat muscle sprains there should be no heat applied if there is swelling, at least for the first few days. Cold presses can be applied as they will prevent inflammation of the muscle. You should avoid activity while healing so as not to over extend the injured muscle. You shouldn’t have aspirin the first few days of a muscle strain as it may cause the bleeding to be worse. Over the counter pain medication can be taken with care. A guideline for over the counter pain medications is that NSAIDs (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium. They reduce inflammation and there may be side effects of stomach upset or ulcers. Aspirin is a blood thinner and shouldn’t be taken within the first 48 hours of a muscle sprain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not a NSAID and doesn’t reduce inflammation. However, it will reduce soreness and pain without the side effects of a NSAID. Regular doses of any over the counter pain medication, whether acetaminophen or NSAID will help the soreness of the muscle sprain.

Another application that can be used in sprains is the PRICE method. This stands for Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate:

Protect- wraps, splints, canes, braces, etc. Used to keep the injured muscle from becoming more injured.
Rest– resting and reducing your activity will help the muscle tissue heal.
Ice– Using ice or cold compresses for 15 minutes every two to three hours will keep the inflammation down.
Compress– elastic wraps and bandages will keep the muscle immobile and aid in its healing
Elevate– raising the muscle affected above the heart will help the swelling. When the muscle is below the heart, blood may pool and increase the pressure in the veins.

With any muscle sprain, you should err on the side of caution. Better to take too much time off than not enough and end up irreversibly damaging your muscle tissues.

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