No, although the terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to different types of injuries. A sprain refers to an injury that involves stretching and sometimes tearing of a ligament, a band of strong, fibrous tissue that connects one bone to another, or sometimes a joint component called the joint capsule which helps to keep a joint stable. Sprains occur when a joint is subjected to forces that are outside its normal range of motion. Rolling an ankle when walking or running is a common cause of ankle sprains. Strains are injuries that involve muscles and tendons. Both sprains and strains can cause pain and inflammation, as well as reduced range of motion. Sprains may also cause loss of strength or spasms in the affected muscle.
Treatment begins by determining the extent of the damage. A visual examination will be performed, and the affected area will be felt and gently moved to determine the precise location or damage as well as the extent. Some mild to moderate sprains and strains can be treated with rest, application of ice, and elevation of the area to reduce swelling. Immobilization with braces, splints or casts may also be required to promote healing and reduce the risk of re-injury. When sprains or strains are severe or involve tissue tears, surgery is usually performed to repair the injury. Physical therapy is also often used to help restore flexibility and strength in the area. Early intervention can enable most sprains and strains to heal completely without any long-term effects.
Yes, even a mild sprain or strain in the ankle or foot requires evaluation by a podiatrist to ensure the most appropriate care is provided. Without proper care, repeated injuries can cause long-term problems and even permanent damage. The key to a complete recovery is to seek care as soon as possible after the injury has occurred so treatment can begin right away.
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