With the weather finally warming up, you might be more active and might be facing an injury. Sprains and strains are common injuries year-round, so students need to be aware of their symptoms and causes.
North Dakota State Student Health Services “see sprains and strains year-round on a consistent basis. The exception for a short period of time in the spring are attendees training for the Fargo Marathon,” nurse practitioner Jean Seltvedt said.
Sprains will typically present themselves with bruising and swelling, whereas a strain will have cramping, localized swelling and inflammation.
A ligament stretching causes a sprain or tearing and can happen after an injury, fall or accident. Sprains are most common in ankles, elbows, knees, finger and wrists.
Strains are caused by a twisted, pulled or torn muscle or tendon. They are most common in shoulders, back, arms, legs and hamstring muscles.
These types of injuries have many ways they can be prevented, such as “maintaining healthy and well-balanced diet to keep the muscles strong, maintaining a healthy weight and good physical condition,” Seltvedt said. “Concentrate on maintaining good posture when standing and sitting. Try to reduce stress in life — tension can worsen pain and make one more prone to neck and back problems.”
Good stretching exercises can be found at Student Health Services, the Wellness Center and the athletic department.
Warming up before and cooling down after playing sports and working out can also prevent injuries. Also, if you are trying to up the intensity of your workout, you should slowly intensify it in measured steps so that you don’t over do it.
“Drink plenty of water before, during and after your athletic activity. Exercising in hotter climate can increase sweating, which could cause electrolyte imbalance so you may need to use specific electrolyte infused beverages to replace loss,” Seltvedt explained.
If you’re working on a computer or playing video games for long periods, you should take breaks to stretch and rest.
If you’re treating the injuries at home, it’s recommended that you follow the RICE protocol.
According to Seltvedt, the RICE protocol is:
“R- Resting injured area as much as possible. This means reducing daily activities and stopping regular exercise for a minimum of 48-72 hours.
I- Apply ice pack to the injured area 10-15 minutes, two to three times a day to bring down swelling. A cold pack, ice bag, frozen vegetables or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice wrapped in a towel. Never put ice or frozen bags directly to bare skin.
C- Compression, such as an Ace bandage or neoprene elastic sleeve, to help reduce swelling. Do not apply the Ace wrap too tight — this could cut off blood circulation if too tight.
E- Elevate the injured area if applicable on pillows or a soft object above the level of the heart, to reduce blood pressure at the area and thus reduce the swelling.”
Over the counter anti-inflammatories, ibuprofen and naproxen can be used for inflammation and pain, just follow the directions on the label.
If the swelling has lessened after 72 hours, then a heat pack should be applied two to four hours a day for five days. Use to your comfort, and make sure the pack is not too hot.
Once the swelling and pain have gone down, you can then slowly and gently start stretching and doing strengthening exercises while gradually increasing the duration.
Stop if pain or swelling occurs again. For more serious injuries, you should seek a medical provider for an evaluation.