Treating Strains And Sprains Appropriately

When the hand is injured, people usually want to seek out a diagnosis. The terms strain and sprain are used interchangeably but are 2 completely different injuries. A sprained hand refers to a tear or damage to the ligaments. Strained hands are the result of tearing or overstretching the muscles or tendons. Ligaments connect bones, whereas tendons connect the muscle to the bone. Understanding the difference is important so appropriate medical care can be obtained.

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Comparing symptoms

When a person injures the hand, identifying the exact problem at play can be difficult. Strained and sprained hands do have a few similar symptoms in common. These symptoms include pain, swelling, decreased range of motion (ROM), and reduced flexibility. A significant difference between the 2 conditions is that a sprained hand results in bruising, whereas a strained hand causes muscle spasms.

Diagnosing an injury

Although some hand injuries do not require immediate medication attention, a doctor should address more serious concerns immediately. At the appointment, the healthcare provider will take the patient’s medical history, ask about current symptoms, and perform a physical examination of the affected hand. To make a diagnosis, the doctor will recommend tests such as x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, and ultrasound.

Rest, ice, and elevate

Strained or sprained hands are treated based on the severity of the injury. A mild strain or sprain can usually be managed with easy home treatments. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the hand can help lessen pain and swelling. In mild cases, a patient can resume daily activities in 2-3 days. For moderate cases, healing may take up to a week. With severe strains or sprains, the healthcare provider may suggest surgery to repair any damage to the hand, and recuperation time is longer. Physical therapy (PT) is usually done after surgery to restore ROM and strength.

Preventing recurrence

Once the hand is healed, take precautions to prevent another hand injury. Stretch before doing any activity, and try exercising every day. Slow down if a workout is too intense, and rest often between activities. Be vigilant of road conditions and walk cautiously to prevent fall injuries.

Getting back to hand use

Both strained and sprained hands have similar symptoms. The main difference is that sprains affect the ligament, and strains affect the muscles and tendons. Regardless of the injury type, a doctor should evaluate the injury to make the correct diagnosis. In most cases, rest, ice, and evaluation can help an individual get back to using the hand in just a few short days.

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