Sprains and strains are types of injuries. A sprain is an injury to a ligament while a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon.
Ligaments and tendons are
kinds of fibrous tissue in the body. They connect different parts of
the body. Ligaments are found at the joints, where they join bones together. Tendons
attach muscles to bone.
A sudden stretching, twisting, or tearing of a ligament causes a sprain. This injury can happen when a child falls or suffers a hit to the body. Sprains often affect the ankles, knees, or wrists.
A pulling or tearing of a muscle or a tendon causes a strain. This type of injury can happen suddenly, such as when a child overstretches a muscle. Or it can happen over time if a child overuses a muscle or tendon. Overuse can occur during activities that require similar movements be repeated over and over.
Active teens or those who play sports are most at risk for a sprain or a strain. These injuries are not common in younger children. That is because their growth plates are weaker than the muscles or tendons. Growth plates are areas of bone growth at the ends of long bones. Instead, younger children are more likely to have broken bones.
Symptoms may occur a bit differently in each child. Symptoms of a sprain or a strain often depend on the severity of the injury. Below are the most common symptoms your child may feel in the injured area:
These symptoms may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s healthcare provider makes the diagnosis with a physical exam. During the exam, he or she asks about your child’s health history and how the injury happened.
Your child may also need:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Initial treatment for a sprain or a strain includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Other treatment choices may include:
Sprains and strains heal quite quickly in children and teens. Make sure your child follows any activity restrictions and stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent reinjury. The risk for reinjury is greater in the first 2 months, but can occur even after that.
Many sprains and strains are sports injuries. They are from either injury or overuse of muscles or joints. Many sports injuries can be prevented by:
You can help your child prevent overuse injuries by making sure your child:
Call your child’s healthcare provider if:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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