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Breaks, Sprains, and Strains: When to Go to the ER

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Posted at 2:48 PM, Mar 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-09 17:56:45-04

Whether you’re playing sports, exercising alone, or even walking down the street, muscle and bone injuries can occur in almost any situation. Being able to identify the difference between a broken bone, a strain, or a sprain is important for a successful recovery.

Strains
A strain occurs in the muscles or tendons and is commonly caused by overuse. However, strains can result from any sudden twisting motion or overstretching of the muscles and tendons. Symptoms of a strain include pain, inflammation, and muscle weakness.

Treatment for strains depends on the severity. For mild to moderate strains, rest, ice, compression and elevation may be the best treatment.

Sprains
A sprain occurs when a ligament is overstretched or torn from direct or indirect trauma such as a fall or a blow to the body that knocks a joint out of position and overstretches the supporting ligaments. Symptoms of a sprain include pain, bruising, inflammation, and joint instability.

Treatment for sprains is similar to muscle and tendon strains; however, if you’re unable to move or place weight on the injured area, it may be necessary to see a doctor.

Breaks/Fractures
There are several types of bone fractures, but the main categories are displaced, non-displaced, open, and closed. It is more common for children and elderly people to fracture bones because of their bone composition. Fractures can be very serious and some may require emergency medial treatment.

If the fracture happens to be open, the bone breaks through the skin. This increases the risk for bone infection, so immediate medical treatment is necessary. The severity of the fracture also depends on the location within the body. Some fractures can result in long-term damage or life-threatening situations if not treated immediately. If you suspect you have a bone fracture, go to the ER.

Treatment for fractures depends on the type and severity of the fracture. It may include setting the bone, immobilizing the area with a cast or splint, rest, and possible rehabilitation.

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