Sprains are injuries to the ligaments, which connect bones at the joints. When there is tearing or stretching of a muscle or tendon it is called a strain. Either of these injuries may cause swelling and pain at the site of the injury. Pain often worsens with movement or bearing weight. In serious cases it can lead to dislocation of bones.
The problem usually gets better on its own but can take a while. If you believe that you may have a sprain or a strain, you should initiate P.R.I.C.E.
- Protection – avoid further injury
- Rest – refrain from exercise and decrease activity. Use a crutch to avoid bearing weight on the affected side or a sling for a shoulder injury
- Ice – Apply for no more than 20-30 minutes at a time and make sure to put a barrier between the ice and skin such as a light towel
- Compression – wrap an elastic compression bandage around the affected extremity. If you feel a numbness or tingling sensation it is too tight
- Elevate – keep the injury above heart level to help reduce swelling
After the acute phase (usually 24 to 48 hours), apply warm, moist heat such as a heating pad. As with the ice, apply heat for a maximum of 20-30 minutes and do not apply the heat directly to the skin. Ibuprofen or other pain relievers are effective for pain relief.
Seek emergency assistance if you are unable to move or bear weight
- Warm up muscles before exercising and follow up with stretching
- Strength, balance, and endurance exercises
A fracture is a broken bone. Common causes include car accidents, falls, or sports injuries. Overuse can also cause stress fractures which are small cracks in the bone.
Signs and symptoms
- Unnatural alignment (deformity)
- Swelling, tenderness or pain
- Muscle spasm
- Impaired sensation
- Impaired mobility
If you think that you may have a fracture, you should seek medical attention. You will need to have an X-ray done, and the affected area will need to be immobilized with a splint or a cast. The PRICE method may also be used with fractures.
When to go to the emergency room:
- There are open wounds with a visible piece of bone protruding from skin
- Multiple bones are broken
- The injury is to a site that is not a limb or appendage (i.e.-- face, ribs, collarbone, hip, shoulder, etc.)
- Wear supportive shoes that are appropriate for your activity to avoid stress fractures
- Ask your doctor about arch supports for your shoes if you have flat feet
- Proper nutrition is vital for keeping your bones strong. Be sure to include plenty of calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients in your diet
Nebraska Medicine University Health Center offers medical services to help students feel and stay well. Most services at the University Health Center require an appointment. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment. Telehealth visits are available depending on your symptoms. Learn more about hours.