Soft tissue injuries are those injuries to the muscles, tendons and ligaments (ie/ not bones). The most common soft tissue injuries are sprains and strains. Most people have experienced one or the other at some point in their lives. The terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Read on to learn more about these two injuries and how acupuncture for strains and sprains can improve the healing outcomes.
A sprain is defined as a stretch or tear of a ligament. Ligaments are the connective tissue “straps” that join one bone to another. Sprains can result from a fall, a sudden twist or a blow to the body that forces a joint out of place. Symptoms of a sprain include pain, swelling, instability, bruising and loss of functional joint ability. Sometimes there is an audible pop when the injury occurs.
Sprains are graded based on their severity. A Grade I or mild sprain is generally caused by overstretching or the minor tearing of a ligament, but the person will still have joint stability. A Grade II or moderate sprain is more intense, but the person only experiences some loss of joint function. A Grade III or severe sprain occurs when there is a complete tear in the ligament and the person is unable to put any weight on the joint.
A strain, on the other hand, is defined as an injury to a muscle or tendon. Tendons are the connective tissue bands that join muscle to bone. Strains can happen from twisting, pulling or overloading a muscle or its tendon. The symptoms of a strain are subtly different than those of a sprain. Most people who experience a strain will report pain, limited range of motion, muscle spasms and possibly muscle weakness. There may also be cramping, bruising, swelling and inflammation. Strains also range in their severity from mild to severe. For more information on strains visit this article.
First Aid for Strains & Sprains
Instinctively, when a person experiences a sprain or a strain, basic first aid skills take over. R.I.C.E. is a commonly used acronym for looking after soft-tissue injuries. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation. Things like taking the pressure off the joint, raising the joint and applying ice to alleviate swelling and inflammation are all great places to start. Icing a sprain or strain is only good for the first 48 to 72 hours, as it will help decrease swelling. However, prolonged use of ice may impair movement and also interfere with the healing process because it constricts the tissues and impedes blood flow. But there are other possible solutions to healing a sprain or a strain. And one of these would be to see an acupuncturist or Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.
Acupuncture for Sprains & Strains
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have many tools at their disposal that can assist in increased healing of a strain or sprain. When either of these injuries occur, the muscles surrounding the area tighten up in an effort to protect the injured site. This can then lead to stiffness in that joint. This is the body’s natural defense mechanism that decreases strong blood flow to the area. Acupuncture for strains and sprains are just one of the ways TCM can help. Acupuncture and other modalities, such as cupping therapy, help loosen up the muscles and increase blood flow to the area, which brings in tissue-healing oxygen and nutrients.
Increasing blood flow is just one way TCM can help. There are also specific acupressure points that reduce swelling, decrease inflammation and alleviate pain. Through the use of regular acupuncture treatments following a sprain or strain injury, the body can heal faster. The more frequently a person receives acupuncture for strains and sprains, the quicker the results will occur.