How to Treat a Joint Strain and Recover More Quickly

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Whether it involves your ankle, wrist, finger, knee or elsewhere in your body, a joint strain can cause severe pain and discomfort. The good news is that most joint strains don’t require medical attention. Since they only affect soft tissue and not your bones, your body will heal itself on its own. But until that happens, you may struggle to move and use the joint in which the strain is located without experiencing sharp, shooting pain.


What Is a Joint Strain?

Not to be confused with a muscle sprain, a joint strain is an injury involving the tendons and/or muscle tissue in a joint. Our bodies contain 360 unique joints, 86 of which are located in the skull. These joints contain multiple bones that are joined together by muscle tissue and connective tissue like tendons. When you move a joint, it stretches the tendons and muscle tissue inside it. And like other soft tissue, they can only withstand so much stress before tearing. A joint strain is characterized by the tearing of tendons and/or muscle tissue in a joint.


Where Do Joint Strains Occur?

A joint strain can occur anywhere in the body where a joint is located. However, this injury is most common in the following joints:

  • Ankle
  • Wrist
  • Thumb
  • Knee
  • Shoulder


The 3 Degrees of Joint Strains

The severity of a joint strain can vary, with minor strains causing little pain and severe strains causing debilitating pain. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) uses a one- to three-degree classification system to measure the severity of a joint strain. First-degree joint strains are characterized by minor tearing of tendons and/or muscle tissue and cause minimal pain. Second-degree joint strains are characterized by moderate tearing of tendons and/or muscle tissue and cause moderate pain. And third-degree joint strains are characterized by significant tearing of tendons and/or muscle tissue and cause severe pain with little or no range of motion.


Protect the Injured Joint

If you’re suffering from a joint strain, you should first seek to protect the injured joint. Exposing the joint to additional force or pressure will only increase the risk of further injury while inhibiting your body’s ability to repair the damaged tissue in the process. Therefore, you should protect the joint by wrapping it — don’t make it too tight — with bandages.



Minimize Use of Injured Joint

You should also minimize the use of the injured joint. If it’s your thumb, for example, place it in a splinter before wrapping it with bandage. You won’t be able to bend or use your thumb, which is beneficial to your recovery since it protects the injured tendons and/or muscle tissue from additional stress. If you’re suffering from a severe joint strain involving your knee, consider using crutches until the injured tissue has healed.


Use a Topical Anti-Inflammatory Product

The pain associated with a joint strain is usually the result of inflammation. The tearing of tendons and/or muscle tissue triggers inflammation, thus causing the joint to swell. Aside from being painful, joint inflammation also restricts the mobility of the joint. There’s over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can help reduce inflammation in the body. For a joint strain, though, a topical NSAID product may offer greater relief. Available at most drug stores, topical NSAIDs are applied directly to the skin over the injured joint. Once applied, they are quickly absorbed into the skin and underlying soft tissue.


Elevate Injured Joint to Same Level as Heart

If possible, try to elevate the injured joint to the same level as your heart. You might be wondering how this helps exactly. Well, raising the injured joint to your heart allows blood to travel from it to your heart more quickly. In turn, increased blood flow through the injured joint will provide it with more oxygen and nutrients, which your body needs to repair the injured tendons and/or muscle tissue. Conversely, elevating an injured joint above your heart reduces blood flow and may prolong your joint strain. You won’t always have the ability to elevate an injured joint to the same level as your heart. But if you do, it can assist your body with the recovery process by supplying the injured tendons and/or muscle tissue with more blood.


Professional Treatment for a Joint Strain

For moderate or severe joint strains, consider seeking professional treatment. Massage therapy is a safe, noninvasive and effective way to recover more quickly from a joint strain. It’s been used for centuries to treat injuries of soft tissue, and in recent years, it’s become an increasingly popular alternative to other, more invasive forms of treatment. Massage therapy works by stimulating blood flow to the injured joint.


If you suffer from a joint strain contact us today. Atlanta Chiro and Wellness offers chiropractic and massage therapy services that may help alleviate the symptoms of joint injuries like a joint strain.

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