Strains and Sprains

Strains and sprains are injuries affecting muscles and ligaments, usually because of accidents while moving, such as during sports.

It could be a stretch or tear in the muscles or tendons (the tissue connecting your muscle to your bone) or ligaments (the tissues around the joints that connect bones to one another).

Whether it is a muscle strain, muscle tear, ligament tear or pulled muscle, you may feel pain, experience swelling or bruising and restricted movements to the affected part. Depending on the severity of your condition, read on to find out when you should consult a General Practitioner (GP) first, or get treated and tested at an Urgent Care Centre (UCC), or head directly to the Emergency Department (ED).

First Aid for Strains and Sprains

Shortly after the accident happens, give yourself first aid by administering P.R.I.C.E.

  • Protect the injured area
  • Rest
  • Ice the area by placing an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel) on the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Compress the injured area with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops.
  • Elevate the injured area by raising it above the level of your heart, especially at night.

When You Have a Strain or Sprain, See a General Practitioner (GP) First If:

  • There is severe pain or swelling.
  • You are experiencing numbness or coldness in the wounded area.
  • There is bruising.
  • Symptoms have not improved after 3 days of treatment at home.

Your GP is well placed to treat mild-to-moderate symptoms at the clinic and refer you to a specialist when necessary.

When You Have a Strain or Sprain, Visit the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) If:

  • The injured limb looks crooked or has unusual lumps.
  • You suspect there is a fracture.
  • You cannot move the injured joint or muscle.
  • You cannot put any weight on the injured limb.
  • There is persistent pain and stiffness.
Consult a medical professional if you experience a muscle tear or a pulled muscle.

You can visit the UCC for conditions that require urgent attention but are not life-threatening. For example, someone with a painful sprain can visit the UCC for an X-ray to rule out a fracture instead of visiting the Emergency Department of a hospital. There are physiotherapists on-site to assess soft tissue injuries.

To check the services offered at each UCC, please check with the healthcare providers directly.

Go to the Emergency Department (ED) If Your Limb or Life Is At Risk:

  • Joint dislocation is suspected.
  • The injury is caused by significant trauma, e.g., road traffic accidents, high-impact sports activities.

This article is contributed by Woodlands Health Campus and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

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