Sprains and strains: Signs and symptoms

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Recognising sprains and strains

Sprains and strains can be managed relatively simply, so it helps to know how to identify this common type of injury.1

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Signs and symptoms

Both sprains and strains cause pain, inflammation and swelling.

  • Symptoms of a sprain occur around the affected joint and can also include bruising, loss of function, and mechanical instability if severe2
  • Symptoms of a strain affect the injured muscle and can include spasm, weakness and cramping2

Symptom severity depends on both the severity of the injury and the time since the injury took place – it can take up to 24 hours for bruising and swelling to become apparent.2

  • Questions to ask your patient

    Ask your patient:2,3

    • Where exactly does it hurt?
    • How bad would you say the pain is?
    • When did the pain start? Had anything happened before then that could explain the pain, for example a fall or an injury?
    • Describe the pain. Is it sharp? Or a dull ache? Does it feel sore? Or stiff?
    • Is there any swelling or bruising?
    • Is the pain present all the time or does it just occur when you move, or perform any particular activity?
    • Does the pain ease after you have rested? Or does it get worse?
  • When to refer your patient for further care

    The patient should be immediately referred to an emergency department if any of the following is suspected:2

    • Fracture
    • Dislocation
    • Damage to nerves or circulation
    • Tendon rupture
    • Wound penetrating the joint
    • Known bleeding disorder
    • Signs of septic arthritis (e.g. fever, joint swollen and warm to touch) or haemarthrosis (joint is very painful and swollen immediately after injury)
    • A large intramuscular haematoma
    • A complete tear, or a tear of more than half of the muscle belly

Understanding sprains and strains

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Management

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Voltaren Triple Effect

Voltaren Triple Effect 1.16% Emulgel for strains and sprains

Relieves pain, reduces inflammation and speeds up the natural healing process.4–6

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Samples

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