Sprain or strain? Here’s how to tell if it’s time to take your kid to the doctor

Simple Health

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For many parents it’s a constant struggle trying to decide when a sports injury is serious enough to see a doctor, or if it can be easily treated at home.

There are some signs that can provide an answer and save you a trip and money to the urgent care. Megan Fox is the Area Medical Manager at FastMed Urgent Care and said parents should know the difference between a sprain and strain.

“The difference is the tissue that is injured,” she said. “A strain is an injury to the muscle or the tendon connecting the muscle to the bone, and with a sprain there is injury to a ligament, which connects a bone to a bone.”

Fox says knowing the difference and location of the injury is key to recovery. She says sprains occur at the joint space such as the ankle, wrist or thumb where a ligaments is connecting those bones.

Strains are over a big muscle — the back of your thigh or lower back, for example. Fox says one is not worse than the other, but strains typically heal faster while a sprain can take 3-4 weeks to heal.

Fox says it’s time to seek medical treatment when your child “cannot stand or walk, if they cannot move the joint, if there is any numbness or tingling, or if the pain is lasting for two weeks.”

The color of a bruise after an injury can also be telling. “The bruise will change color as the body moves through the healing process,” said Fox.

The bruise may turn from red to blue, purple or black in the beginning stages of the injury but will turn yellow or brown as the body heals. Fox says the color of a bruise can provide clues when an injury is more than a sprain or strain.

“If the bruise is staying purple and firm, even after 3 or 4 days and not progressing, that may be a hematoma,” she said, “where there is blood collecting in the tissue underneath that can be a sign maybe there is something more serious, maybe there is a fracture.”

That’s when it’s time to see a doctor along with with the following other signs that may indicate a greater injury: swelling or locking, bruising, numbing or tingling, headache or fatigue.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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