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Muscle Strains and Sprains: When to Go to Urgent Care for Treatment

May 25, 2022

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Family Health Care

Muscle Strains and Sprains: When to Go to Urgent Care for Treatment

Typically, sprain and strains are used interchangeably, but they are actually different soft tissue injuries. A sprain is the tearing/overstretching of ligaments (bands of tissues) connecting bones in a joint, whereas a strain is the tearing/overstretching of tendons (fibrous cords of tissues) connecting bones to muscles.

Sprain and strains are common injuries caused by slips and falls, lifting heavy weights, or twists. While mild strains or sprains can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain-relieving medications or sprays, severe ones require medical intervention to ensure proper care and prevent repetitive injuries.

Read on to learn when to go to an urgent care for muscle sprain or strains.

How Would I Know If I Have a Pulled Muscle?

Muscle strains can either occur suddenly or develop slowly over time due to repetitive movements involved in a sport, such as running, throwing, and jumping.

Aside from sports, everyday activities can also cause strains, including:

  • Certain sleeping positions
  • Prolonged sitting at a desk
  • Sudden jerking movements, such as trying to get up fast after tripping from something

Strains typically affect muscles in the:

  • Wrist
  • Groin
  • Lower back
  • Neck
  • Hamstring (back of your leg)
  • Calf

Common symptoms of a pulled muscle include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Cramps (muscle spasms)
  • Change in the skin’s appearance, such as a dent or gap (rare)
  • Pain while sitting

When Will I Need to Go to an Urgent Care for Muscle Strain?

Generally, muscle strains are benign and can be treated at home. However, you should consider visiting an urgent care center if you experience any of the following symptoms after a muscle strain:

  • Persistent pain or pain that radiates down the legs or arms
  • Joint pops or cracks when the injury occurred or if you move the affected area post-injury
  • Difficulty walking, sitting, or getting out of bed
  • Numbness or tingling around the joint
  • Inability to move or bend the affected area
  • Your symptoms persist even after over-the-counter pain relievers or medications

It is recommended that you visit an urgent care provider if you have re-injured that area, because untreated re-injuries can lead to loose joints, arthritis, and tendon damage.

How Can an Urgent Care Help with Pulled Muscle?

At FCCMG, we will perform a physical exam to diagnose a strain/sprain and its extent and nature of the damage. Our experts will check for swelling, tenderness, and intensity of pain in the affected area. We may also recommend an X-ray if we suspect any fractures or cracks in the injured joint.

Depending on your test results and the severity of your injury, we may:

  • Prescribe medications for pain relief
  • Provide home-care tips, including stretching or strengthening exercises to regain strength and range of motion
  • Refer you to a physiotherapist (during recovery) to maximize the flexibility and stability of the affected joint, thus reducing the risk of re-injuries
  • Develop safe plans for returning to work, sports, or other physical activities
  • Advise you to reduce or avoid some work activities to prevent repetitive injuries

What If It Is Not Serious Enough to Seek Medical Care: At-Home Muscle Sprain Tips

Minor strains or sprain can be treated at home with:

#1: Rest

Rest the injured joint for 48 to 72 hours. Avoid putting any weight on the injured area and physical activities that worsen your pain. However, resting does not mean that you have to avoid all activities. For example, even with an ankle sprain, you can exercise or move your arms and uninjured leg. Keep your other muscles active to minimize deconditioning except for the injured area.

#2: Ice

Wrap a handful of ice in a thin towel and apply it to the injured area for 20 minutes for the first two days post-injury to minimize swelling and inflammation. Don’t leave ice on the skin for more than 20 minutes, as it can lead to tissue damage.

#3: Compress

Compress the affected area with an elastic wrap or bandage to reduce swelling, as swelling or inflammation can reduce healing. However, do not wrap too tightly, as it can cause numbness or pain.

#4: Elevation

Keep the injured area elevated above your chest level whenever possible to prevent or limit swelling.

Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can also help you manage pain and swelling.

Visit one of our urgent care clinic in Irvine, urgent care center in Fountain Valley, and Urgent Care clinic in Costa Mesa, CA, for severe muscle strains/sprain. We are committed to providing high-quality treatment for sprain/strains, so you can resume your routine activities and normal life.

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