What is the difference between sprains, strains, and dislocations?
Sprains, strains, and dislocations are all injuries that occur to or around joints.
A sprain is the stretching or tearing of one or more ligaments. Ligaments are the tough tissues between bones that connect them to create joints. A strain is an injury not to the ligaments themselves, but to the muscle or tendon (the tissue that connects the muscle to bone). A dislocation is when the joint itself is forced out of its normal position, usually from a blunt force or hard blow to the joint.
What causes sprains, strains, and dislocations?
These injuries are caused by stressors to the joints, usually caused by force. They are often sports-related injuries but can also be caused by falls or any other blow that causes the joint to move in an unusual way, like in contact sports or a car accident. Sprains and strains are often caused by uneven surfaces, awkward landings, pivoting, or overexertion.
What are the symptoms of sprains, strains, or dislocated joints?
For sprains and strains, you may experience pain in or around the joint, swelling, bruising, limited mobility, and possibly hear or feel a popping in the joint at the time of the injury. For a dislocation, the joint may be visibly misshapen or show a bone out of place, and you will likely be unable to move the joint and experience swelling and intense pain.
When do I see a doctor for a sprain, strain, or dislocated joint?
Minor sprains and strains can be treated at home with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.). However, some sprains and dislocations can have similar symptoms to a fractured or broken bone. Suspected dislocations should be seen in the ER to reset the joint and verify there are no breaks or fractures. Try to keep the joint immobile and iced while in route to the emergency room. You should also seek care if you suspect a sprain, but are unable to put weight on or move the joint, if you have any pain associated with a bone (and not the joint itself), or you are experiencing any numbness in any part of the injury.
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