Slip Slidin' Away

Published on: 3/6/2014

Wintry weather got you down? As in, falling down? You're not alone – and sometimes, those slips and falls can leave more reminders than a few bruises and some soreness. At this time of year, the pattern of 'melting during the day, refreezing during the night' can leave some dangerously slick spots on sidewalks and parking lots, and catching one of those the wrong way can lead to a sprain or a strain injury.

Sprains and strains are the most common injuries affecting the musculoskeletal system.  Although the words are often used interchangeably, sprains and strains are two different types of injury. A sprain is an injury affecting a ligament (the thick fibrous band of fascial tissue that connects a bone to another bone), while a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, which connects muscle to bone. Sprains are generally thought of as more serious than strains, and usually heal more slowly, because ligaments do not have direct blood supply.

Sprains usually occur as a result of direct or indirect trauma (such as a fall or a blow to the body) which forces a joint out of position and over-stretches the ligament. Strains can be either chronic or acute. A chronic strain is a response to repetitive overuse of a muscle or tendon, and may also be associated with inadequate rest breaks during intensive athletic training. An acute strain, like a sprain, can result from an impact or other trauma that affects a muscle or tendon, or from over-stretching or extreme muscle contraction.

With either of these injuries, we have found myofascial release therapy soon after injury to be very beneficial in the healing process. Once the injury has stabilized, and serious damage has been ruled out, we have seen significant improvements with treatment. When treating a sprain or strain with myofascial release, therapists often begin with gentle compression across the affected area - since the mechanism of injury is a stretching force, reversing that stretch can be very effective at restoring neutral position. Gentle rotations can also be very beneficial, allowing the body to release held tension and return to normal posture and movement.

Of course, prevention is the best medicine – did you know that you should be walking differently in icy or slippery conditions? Check out this graphic (from which shows why our normal stride pattern leaves us vulnerable, and how we should adjust our posture and gait to stay upright.

Of course, this is less effective in the case of 'black ice', when we don't even know it's there, but with a little precaution, you can avoid the worst effects of sprains and strains from slip-slidin' away on icy sidewalks. At least until spring (finally) gets here!

Suffering from challenges to your digestive system? One of our therapists, Greg Jolly, will be giving a free talk on 'Unravelling Digestive Discomforts' at Good Harvest Market in Pewaukee on Tuesday, March 11th, from 6 to 7 p.m. Visit Good Harvest's website and click on 'Events' for more information or to pre-register!