Vancouver is a beautiful city with a ton of opportunities to enjoy being outdoors and participating in your favorite activity. This also means that it increases your risk of sustaining an activity-related injury—one of the most common being a sprain.
A sprain can be especially frustrating because it can take a long time to heal, and the nature of the injury is often poorly understood by people who have experienced one. Essentially, a sprain is the traumatic stretching or tearing of ligaments, which connect bones to bones. Ligaments are thick bands of tough fibrous tissue, which is a blessing and a curse. Ligaments are strong—they have to be to hold your bones in place. But they’re not stretchy or flexible. Once a ligament has been stretched beyond its capacity, it can take a long time to heal. And if the sprain is severe, the ligament may be torn, requiring surgery to repair the damage.
A sprain shouldn’t be confused with a strain, which occurs when a muscle or a tendon has been overstretched or torn. While a ligament holds bones to other bones and can be sprained, a tendon connects muscles to bones and can be strained.
Most people who have experienced a sprain know that they’ve injured themselves right away. At the time of injury, they may have heard a pop in the joint. Sprains can also be very painful, and cause swelling, bruising and inability to use the affected joint.
By far the most common site of a sprain is your ankle. An ankle sprain can occur from walking or hiking on uneven ground, landing wrong while jumping, or rolling your ankle during side-to-side movements. While ankle sprains occur most frequently, you can sprain your knee by landing or pivoting the wrong way, your wrist from bracing from a fall, and your thumb from skiing, volleyball or racquet sports.
Most sprains seem to occur out of the blue, but there are actually a few conditions that may increase your risk for a sprain. They include:
- Exercising or walking on slippery or uneven ground.
- Muscle fatigue, because tired muscles are less able to support your joints. It’s not a coincidence that the majority of ski and snowboard injuries occur later in the day.
- Not having the right equipment for your activity. This includes the wrong shoes, hiking boots that don’t support your ankles and ill-fitting or inadequate safety equipment.
- Having had a previous sprain. If you’ve had a sprain before, you’re at an increased risk of injuring that joint again.
Sprains can range from mild to severe. Often mild sprains can be treated with rest, ice and elevation. Compression with an ace or tensor bandage is also recommended to keep swelling to a minimum. Severe sprains, those in which you can’t bear weight, have a great deal of pain, experience numbness or suspect the bone has been broken need medical attention.
Treatment For Sprains at BodaHealth
Once your sprain has been stabilized, our practitioners at BodaHealth can help you heal as quickly as possible and get you back to being active. We can provide acupuncture to reduce inflammation, relieve your pain and increase circulation to promote healing.
In addition to acupuncture, we treat sprains with cold laser therapy, which uses low intensity red and infrared light as a way to reduce pain and stimulate healing. Cold laser is a type of light that penetrates deeply into both soft and fibrous tissue to produce changes in the cells that trigger a healing reaction. Researchers have found that cold laser helps to make new blood vessels, promotes circulation and increases collagen synthesis to help heal your body from musculoskeletal injuries and pain conditions.
Our massage therapists also provide relief for patients who have sustained a sprain. Massage helps to decrease swelling, increase flexibility and promote circulation—all of which support healing of your injured joint. Additionally, our staff exercise physiologist is on hand to get you back to full functioning after a sprain, and they can work with you to help prevent future injuries.
Sprains can be intense and slow to heal. It’s been said that healing from a fracture is easier than coming back from a sprain. At BodaHealth, we get that, and our goal is to help you be pain free and back to full function as quickly as possible. Whether it’s skiing in the nearby mountains or hiking the many trails around Vancouver, our practitioners are committed to quickly getting you back to your activity after a sprain. If you want to know more about how we can help you heal from your sprain, contact us today.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.