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What to look for, and what to do

Any scrape, bonk or “owie” is a big deal to your child, but figuring out if there is any actual damage can be a hard task. A sprain is no exception. Sprains are a difficult injury to self diagnose, especially in a child. Sometimes the symptoms don’t show up until the next day. So how can a parent identify this type of injury? Just 4 Kids is here to help.

The first thing to know about sprains and strains is the difference between them. The symptoms are incredibly similar, and the treatments are virtually identical for mild injuries.

Sprains are an injury that occur when ligaments are stretched or torn. Ligaments are strong fibrous bands that connect your bones to your joints. Common sprains are located in ankles, knees and wrists. Sprains are an easy injury to get. Kids who are clumsy or inattentive often receive them!

What can cause them?

  • Walking or exercising on ground or surface that is uneven
  • Pivoting or turning quickly during activity
  • Overextending or landing outstretched during a fall
  • Extremely rough play

Symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising and discoloration around the affected joint
  • Pain
  • Inability or limited ability to move the injured joint
  • A “popping” sound that occurs at the time of injury

All symptoms will vary depending on the area affected, and the severity of the injury.

Strains are an injury that occur when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn. Tendons are strong fibrous cords that connect your muscles to your bones. Common strains are located in your hamstrings, back, and neck. Strains are also an incredibly easy injury to get, for anyone! They can happen at the simplest of times, many times during an activity or movement that you or your child makes all of the time! There are two types of strains – chronic and acute.

Acute strains happen when the muscle has been pulled or has torn after it has been stretched too far or too quickly.

What can cause them?

  • Slipping and/or falling on ice
  • Simple activity like running, throwing, or jumping
  • Lifting an object, especially heavy objects, while in an awkward position

Chronic strains can happen when the muscle has been subjected to prolonged repetitive movements, causing the muscle to be tired and weak.

What can cause them?

  • Repetitive movements at work
  • Sports that require repetitive movements such as tennis, rowing, gymnastics, baseball, basketball or golf

Symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  • Swelling around the affected area
  • Pain
  • Muscle spasms (these may also be painful for your child)
  • Inability or limited ability to move the injured muscle(s)

Again, symptoms will vary depending on the area affected, and the severity of your child’s injury

Many of these types of injuries you are able to successfully treat at home. If your child has a mild sprain or strain, there are a few things that Just 4 Kids recommends for easing your child’s pain and getting them back to their usual, spunky selves.

Ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help to reduce pain and swelling. Always use medications as directed by your pharmacist or your doctor. If you have any questions on dosages or uses, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

The RICE Protocol – The RICE protocol is a four step process that you can use for either type of injury to relieve pain and pressure to the area. If you can remember these steps, you are well on your way to healing the injury, or at least alleviating discomfort until you can get your child to the doctor.

  • R – Rest. Any exercise or physical activity should be put on hold. Try to avoid placing any weight on the joint, muscle, or limb affected.
  • I – Ice. Ice should be applied for at least 20 minutes, every 2-3 hours to the injury. If you do not have ice packs you can use frozen vegetables or fruit bags. You can also put ice cubes in a ziploc bag. Make sure to place a towel or cloth between the ice pack and your child’s skin. This may be uncomfortable for your child, but is an important step to help reduce any swelling.
  • C – Compression. Using a bandage or trainer’s tape, you can use compression to help reduce swelling by wrapping the area. Loosen or remove the bandage if the area goes numb or if the pain starts to increase.
  • E – Elevation. Try to keep the injury elevated above their heart if possible. This is easily done by laying them down on their bed or the couch, and placing pillows underneath the affected area.

There are times when a sprain or strain should be treated by a doctor. If your child’s injury is severe, it may require additional treatment such as physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, or even surgery.

Please call your primary care physician, or Just 4 Kids if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Swelling, pain, and/or bruising that gets worse over time, and does not improve with home treatment
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Difficulty moving or standing without severe pain
  • Numbness or tingling in any part of the injured area
  • A deformity of the joint
  • Inability to put any pressure or weight on the affected area
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