Q: What is the difference between a sprain and a strain? I have been told I did both to my shoulder and back. Is this something a chiropractor can help?
A: You can overuse or stress just about any part of your body. The results often fall into one of two categories: strains and sprains. A torn muscle is called a strain. You can strain your arm muscles in many ways: shoveling snow, gardening or even swinging a golf club. Your back or shoulder can be stressed through improper lifting or bad posture. Other muscles are torn through slips, falls, exercise and normal activities.
How can you lessen your chances for strains? Exercise regularly and maintain flexibility of your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. It is not enough to pay attention to your body only AFTER you have injured it. Remember to do warm-up exercises before strenuous activities. Your chiropractor can recommend stretching exercises and techniques and adjustments regularly keep the spine and other joints as mobile as can be. It may take up to two days for you to feel the pain of a strain. If the discomfort lasts more than a few days, see your chiropractor.
A torn ligament is called a sprain. Ligaments are a tough, fibrous material connecting one bone to another. Because there is less blood flow to ligaments than to other tissue, they often heal slowly and become scarred and weakened. In the winter, sporting enthusiasts often sprain their ankles when ice skating, playing hockey or skiing. Mild sprains usually improve and do not cause problems in the long term. Severe tears, however, may flare up again if not treated properly.
It is important to see a chiropractor as soon as possible after a serious injury occurs, to prevent excessive swelling and additional harm. The treatment you receive will generally focus on relieving pain and any subsequent swelling, restoring full range of motion and strengthening the joint to help prevent a recurrence of the injury. The success of the doctor’s treatment plan will largely depend on how closely you follow his or her recommendations and how actively involved you become in your recovery program.
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