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Sprains and strains are types of minor injuries to the soft tissues and connective tissues of the musculoskeletal system. Sprains usually refer to injuries to ligaments, but sometimes to other connective tissues, such as tendons and the capsules surrounding joints. Strains usually refer to injuries to muscles or to the areas where muscles become tendons.
Sprains and strains may occur together, and occasionally are quite severe, requiring immobilization of the body part in a rigid cast for weeks, long-term rehabilitation programs, and sometimes surgery.
The most common type of sprain is the ankle sprain. Ankle sprains have differing degrees of severity. Mild or minimal sprains with no tear of the ligament usually produce mild tenderness and some swelling. Moderate sprains, in which the ligament has been partially ruptured, produce obvious swelling, bruising, significant tenderness, and difficulty walking. Severe sprains, as when the ligament is completely torn from the bone (called avulsion), make walking impossible and produce marked swelling, internal bleeding and joint instability.
Symptoms of strains include muscle soreness, muscle spasm, pain, and possibly swelling or warmth over the involved muscle.
Spinal manipulation is used by chiropractors, licensed naturopathic doctors, and some osteopathic doctors to relieve pain and improve healing of sprains and strains. One preliminary trial tested a combination of chiropractic manipulation, muscle stretching, and special exercises known as “proprioceptive neurofacilitation” to people who had sprain/strain neck injuries that had not resolved with other treatment.1 Treatment was reported to help the majority of people, and over one-third reported that their symptoms were completely gone or only mildly bothersome. In a larger preliminary trial,2 people who were still suffering neck pain a year after whiplash-type accidents were treated with spinal manipulation for an average of four months. At the end of the treatments, 72% reported at least some benefit and nearly half reported significant benefit or complete recovery, but people with the most severe symptoms derived little benefit.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.