Musculoskeletal injuries are common and can be caused by a variety of factors, including but not limited to overuse, sudden trauma, and ageing. The musculoskeletal system includes bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. When any of these structures are damaged it can result in pain, weakness, and loss of function. Understanding the different types of musculoskeletal injuries and their causes can help you reduce your risk of injury and help treat these conditions effectively. A physiotherapist can help you with your recovery by identifying which type of injury has occurred and developing a customised treatment plan for your injury. This treatment plan will be tailored not only to your injury, but to your specific needs and goals.
One of the most common types of injuries is a sprain. Sprains occur when an injury occurs to a ligament. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect two or more bones. Sprains can occur in any joint but most commonly occur in the ankles, knees, and wrists. Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the injury, but may include pain, swelling and difficulty moving the affected joint. Strains most often occur due to trauma. Strains are an area that physiotherapists commonly treat and they can support you throughout the whole recovery process.
Strains, on the other hand, are injuries to muscles or tendons. A tendon is a strong cord of tissue that attaches muscles to bones. Strains typically occur in the back, neck, hamstrings, and calf muscles, and can be caused by overuse or sudden movements that put excessive stress on the muscle or tendon. A strain in the tendon is often called tendinitis or a tendinopathy. Symptoms of an acute strain include pain, swelling, bruising, muscle spasms and weakness. Symptoms of a strain related to overuse usually include loss of range of motion, weakness and pain on movement or loading. Strains and tendinopathies are also common injury types that physiotherapists help you recover from.
Fractures, or broken bones, are another type of musculoskeletal injury. They are caused by trauma, such as a fall or a direct blow to the bone. Usually it takes a large amount of force to cause a fracture, unless the bones are weakened by a condition such as osteoporosis or cancer. Symptoms of a fracture include pain, swelling and difficulty moving the affected limb. While physiotherapists cannot help your actual bone heal faster, they can help with everything else related to the injury. They can help keep your surrounding body strong so when you are ready to return to your goals, the other parts of your body are ready. Once the bone is healed, a physiotherapist can help you regain your strength and range of motion.
Dislocations occur when two bones in a joint are forced out of their normal position. This can occur as a result of trauma or a sudden twisting motion. Dislocations are most common in the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees and can cause intense pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected joint. With a dislocation, it is very important that you proceed immediately to the nearest Emergency Room to have the joint reduced. The longer it is out of place, the more damage will be done to the connective tissue associated with the joint, and therefore the longer the recovery will be. Once your joint is relocated, a physiotherapist can develop a plan to rebuild strength and range of motion in the joint. Once a joint has been dislocated, it will have a much greater chance of being dislocated again in the future. However, with proper rehabilitation from a physiotherapist this chance can be significantly reduced.
In order to prevent and treat these different types of musculoskeletal injuries, it is important to understand the causes and risk factors. Overuse, sudden trauma, and ageing are all common causes of musculoskeletal injuries, and certain activities and conditions can increase the risk of these injuries. For example, participating in high-impact sports, sitting in one position for too long, and having a pre-existing condition such as osteoporosis or diabetes can all increase the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
To prevent musculoskeletal injuries, it is important to engage in regular physical activity, move often throughout the day, eat a proper diet to properly fuel your body, and wear proper protective gear when participating in sports or other physical activities. Strengthening exercises can also help prevent musculoskeletal injuries by improving the strength and resiliency of your muscles, tendons, bones, cartilage and ligaments.
If you do experience a musculoskeletal injury, it is important to seek treatment from a professional as soon as possible. If a fracture is suspected, it is important to go to a hospital and get imaging as soon as possible. In almost all other injuries, a physiotherapist is the first person you want to see. A physiotherapist will help you determine the type of injury, its cause, the prognosis and the steps to recovery. It is important to seek professional care as soon as possible, as evidence shows us that early access to treatment promotes faster recovery times. The first step of treatment for musculoskeletal injuries typically involves implementing the acronym PEACE & LOVE.
PEACE: Protect, Elevate, Avoid anti-inflammatories, Compression, and Education
LOVE: Load, Optimism, Vascularization, and Exercise.
Although we often feel we need to protect and rest our injury, the reality is that injuries often heal better with early gentle movement. For more information on how to apply the concept of PEACE & LOVE to your injury read this blog from one of our partner clinics Ridgeline Physio in Fernie, BC.