You Zigged But Your Knee Zagged: How to Treat Mild Sprains and Strains

Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks Player Tyler Lockett

If playing sports will be part of your spring – whether on a team, tennis court or tossing a Frisbee around the local park – sprains and strains can result. What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain? While both injuries have similar signs and symptoms, they affect different parts of the body.

Sprains involve the stretching or tearing of ligaments, the fibrous tissue that connects bones in your joints. Strains are injuries to muscles or tendons, the cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone. Both injuries can cause pain, swelling and limited ability to move the affected area. The good news is mild sprains and strains can be treated at home.

One of Tyler’s Tips for Virginia Mason, from Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks, breaks down what every athlete (or weekend warrior) should keep in mind for treating mild sprains and strains:

“As an NFL player, I know firsthand — and first tibia and fibula — that injuries can happen to anyone. When it comes to recovery, RICE is an easy way to remember how to treat minor injuries.

“R” stands for Rest. When you get injured, the first thing to do is stop the activity that is causing pain. Resting gives your body time to recover.

“I” is for Ice. Applying an ice or cold pack will prevent or reduce swelling. Apply for 10 to 20 minutes, three or more times a day.

“C” means Compression. Wrapping the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage is another way to reduce swelling. But remember, don’t wrap it too tight or you could cause swelling below the bandage.

“E” stands for Elevation. Elevate the injured area while applying ice or when you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the injury at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Remember that RICE is only for minor injuries that you can treat yourself at home. For more serious injuries, talk with your doctor.”

How do you know when it’s time to get medical attention for a strain or sprain? Watch out for these symptoms, which could indicate a more serious injury:

  • Difficulty walking more than a few steps without significant pain
  • Inability to move the affected joint
  • Numbness in any part of the injured area

Virginia Mason Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Services has cared for thousands of sports enthusiasts, from world-class athletes to “weekend warriors.” Board-certified experts work together from diagnosis through rehabilitation to help patients return to their favorite activities, feeling stronger and safer than before their injury. Get inspired by reading orthopedics comeback stories or meet our providers.

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