I have a lot of patients that come in and tell me they went to to urgent care or the emergency room and were told they have a back or neck sprain. Typically they are given anti-inflammatory medicine and maybe a muscle relaxer. I have seen a new trend instead of using opioid pain medications, doctors are giving oral steroids to decrease the inflammation and boost healing. A good choice for sure over those addictive pain medications. However, this doesn’t fix the problem, so let’s see what you need to do to feel better.
Let’s start with a little learning and definitions. A sprain is damage to the joint, as in the joint capsule and ligaments. A strain is a muscle “pull” or damage to the muscle fibers and tendon. Typically we see a muscle strain from an overuse injury, like a New Year’s Resolution of lifting weights and trying to move too much weight or working out much more than you are used to in the past. A low grade muscle strain will heal up in a few days with heat and some light stretching after the acute phase.
The back or neck sprain is more complicated. This involves swelling of the joint and soft tissue surrounding it, typically causing compression on the exiting nerve root in the spine and then muscle spasm to protect the “pinched” nerve. You can also sprain your other joints, knees, shoulders, elbows etc, but let’s just keep to the spine for this lesson 🙂
A back or neck sprain can happen from a multitude of causes, an overuse injury just like a strain, over reaching, poor posture, improper bending and lifting, stress, traumas and even toxins like prescription drugs or junk food.
What do you need to do to fix it?
Start with ice on the joint, if you have radiating pain that goes down an arm or leg you don’t need to ice those parts, just along the spine where the nerve originates (yeah I know that might be something I will have to teach you in person or in another blog). Chiropractic adjustments of course are very effective because they reduce the subluxation, that’s the twisting of the bone, that is causing pressure on the joint itself, decreases the pressure on the nerve and eliminates the muscle spasm. Most patients start to see results after 5-7 adjustments.
When I would teach anatomy I always had the “Big Idea,” at the end of the lesson, BJ Palmer had a saying “Get the Big Idea and all else will follow.” Meaning what is the main lesson and from there you can learn the details. The Big Idea today is a sprain is something that happens to a joint and a strain is something that happens to a muscle. A sprain needs chiropractic care, a strain should heal up on its own with some home therapy. If it doesn’t well then you better give me a call because there might be more going on.
Thank you, I’ll be here all week, tip your wait staff 🙂