Blog Archive

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are common injuries affecting the muscles and ligaments. Most can be treated at home without seeing a GP.

Its likely to be a sprain or strain if:

  • you have pain, tenderness or weakness – often around your ankle, foot, wrist, thumb, knee, leg or back
  • the injured area is swollen or bruised
  • you can’t put weight on the injury or use it normally

you have muscle spasms or cramping – where your muscles painfully tighten on their own

Physio on an foot ligament

For the first couple of days, follow the 4 steps known as RICE therapy to help bring down swelling and support the injury:

1.Rest– stop any exercise or activities and try not to put any weight on the injury.

2.Ice– apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel) to the injury for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.

3.Compression– wrap a bandage around the injury to support it.

4. Elevate– keep it raised on a pillow as much as possible.

To help prevent swelling, try to avoid heat – such as hot baths and heat packs – alcohol and massages for the first couple of days.

When you can move the injured area without pain stopping you, try to keep moving it so the joint or muscle doesn’t become stiff.

After 2 weeks, most sprains and strains will feel better. Avoid strenuous exercise such as running for up to 8 weeks, as there’s a risk of further damage. Severe sprains and strains can take months to get back to normal.

Speak to a pharmacist about the best treatment for you. They might suggest tablets, or a cream or gel you rub on the skin.

Painkillers like paracetamol will ease the pain and ibuprofen will bring down swelling. However, you shouldn’t take ibuprofen for 48 hours after your injury as it may slow down healing.

You can find your nearest pharmacy at NHS Choices.

If you have a sprain or strain that’s taking longer than usual to get better, an appointment with a Physiotherapist might be of benefit.

You don’t need a GP appointment to book physiotherapy. You can book this direct at the reception desk by filling in a form stating what the problem is which will then be triaged by the physio department and they will offer you an appointment if appropriate.

Neck Pain / Stiff Neck

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Neck Pain / Stiff Neck

Neck pain or a stiff neck is a common problem that usually gets better after a few days or weeks. It’s rarely a sign of anything serious.

You can often get a painful or stiff neck if you:

  • sleep in an awkward position
  • use a computer for a prolonged period of time
  • strain a muscle because of bad posture
Neck Pain

For most types of general neck pain, the advice is to carry on with your normal daily activities, keep active, and take painkillers to relieve the symptoms.

These steps may help you manage the pain:

  • take regular doses of paracetamolibuprofen, or a combination of the two, to control pain – ibuprofen gel can be rubbed on to your neck as an alternative to taking tablets (always follow the instructions that come with the medication)
  • try holding a hot water bottle or heat pack to your neck – this can help reduce the pain and any muscle spasms, although some people find cold packs offer better relief
  • sleep on a low, firm pillow at night – using too many pillows may force your neck to bend unnaturally
  • check your posture – bad posture can aggravate the pain, and it may have caused it in the first place
  • avoid wearing a neck collar – there’s no evidence to suggest wearing a neck collar will help to heal your neck, and it’s generally better to keep your neck mobile
  • avoid driving if you find it difficult to turn your head – this may prevent you being able to view traffic
  • if your neck is stiff or twisted, try some neck exercises – gently tense your neck muscles as you tilt your head up and down and from side to side, and as you carefully twist your neck from left to right; these exercises will help strengthen your neck muscles and improve your range of movement.

You should see your GP if:

  • the pain or stiffness doesn’t improve after a few days or weeks
  • you can’t control the pain using ordinary painkillers
  • you’re worried your neck pain could have a more serious cause

Your GP will examine your neck and ask some questions to help identify any underlying condition.

If you’ve had neck pain or stiffness for a month or more, your GP may be able to refer you to a physiotherapist.

Back pain

Back Pain

Back pain is very common and normally improves within a few weeks or months. 

In most cases the pain isn’t caused by anything serious and will usually get better over time.

There are things you can do to help relieve it. But sometimes the pain can last a long time or keep coming back.

Cartoon image of woman holding her back

To help ease back pain, there are a number of self-care techniques you can try:

  • Take paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief. If taking ibuprofen, make sure you take it with food. Read the patient information leaflet before taking any medicine.
  • Hot or cold compression packs, available from larger pharmacies, can also help with the pain.
  • You can make your own cold compression pack by wrapping a bag of frozen food in a towel.
  • Place a small firm cushion beneath your knees when you’re sleeping on your side. Or use several firm pillows to prop up your knees when lying on your back.
  • It’s important to remain mobile by carrying on with your day-to-day activities, including work, as much as possible.
  • Stay positive: studies show that if you keep positive, you’re likely to make a quicker recovery.
  • Take care when lifting objects.

If your back pain is no better after at least two weeks of self-care or you develop other symptoms, your back pain gets worse or you need further advice, speak to your pharmacist and they can recommend other treatments and will advise you if you need to contact your GP.

If your back pain is no better after at least two weeks or you develop other symptoms then contact your GP.

Whiplash

Whiplash

This video has been produced by the Sandbach GPs Physios.