What's the Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?

When it comes to injuries, pain is pain. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between certain types of injuries, especially when it comes to things like sprains and strains. While the pain might impact your daily life in similar ways, there are actually a lot of differences between these two types of injuries. Having the knowledge as to what type of injury you have can help you get a heads-up on the healing process.

Sprain vs. Strain9194896190_46c40ee16b_o

Strains and sprains are the two most common injuries to happen to athletes at all levels. Most often, sprains and strains develop in the joints, including the ankles and wrists. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, sprains and strains are typically caused by some level of trauma, either direct or indirect. Sports injuries are one of the most common causes of both sprains and strains. If the way that the injury occured doesn’t help you differentiate whether it is a strain or a sprain, there are a few ways that you’ll be able to tell.

A sprain happens when a ligament is stretched or torn. Since ligaments support and stabilize the body’s joints, this can cause a lot of pain when you attempt to put any pressure on that joint. A strain is an injury that happens to the actual muscle or tendon. This will also cause a great deal of discomfort, especially when pressure is applied to the injured area.

The best way to tell whether your injury is a strain or a sprain is through the symptoms. A sprain will cause bruising, swelling or inflammation at the injury site. A strain will have slightly different symptoms, including muscle spasms, muscle weakness and cramping.

Proper Treatment

Both sprains and strains require medical intervention to heal properly. At the minimum, a good deal of rest and regular icing of the injury site are paramount. Compression and elevation are also important to accelerate the healing process.

Whether you have a sprain or a strain, proper treatment is absolutely essential in making sure the injury heals. Letting an injury linger can lead to more pain in the long run. Contact us to consult a physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment for your sprain or strain.

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John Redmond, MD

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