The difference between a sprain and a strain is the body tissue type affected. A sprain is a tear of the ligament (which is that tissue that connects one bone to another). A strain involves a tear or stretch of the muscle or tendon. A very common sprain involves the ankle, whereas a very common strain involves the groin or hamstring (better known as a groin or hamstring pull).
- Sprain symptoms include pain, swelling, and sometimes a bruised sensation with limited mobility.
- Strain symptoms include pain, swelling, muscle spasms and limited mobility.
- A “pop” in the joint oftentimes occurs with both sprains and strains.
Who is at risk?
Strains and sprains frequently occur during sporting activities, particularly when an individual is fatigued or not well conditioned. The risk is also higher if muscles are not properly warmed up or stretched prior to activity. People who have a previous sprain or strain that has not completely healed have a higher risk of re-injury.
Initial treatment is usually rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). A physician might direct use of a splint or brace to immobilize the area while it heals. Surgical treatment is reserved for severe cases, especially in sport injuries. A common sprain that sometimes requires surgery is a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in the knee, whereas a common strain that requires surgical repair is a tear of the Archilles tendon.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
See a physician if the patient cannot walk more than a few steps or cannot move the affected joint. Numbness is another indicator that needs medical attention. Red streaks radiating from the affected area need to be evaluated as well. If you injure the same area repeatedly, you should also see a doctor.
Treatment for sprains and strains is available now at Newport Urgent Care in Newport Beach, CA.
For more information on sprains and strains, see the following websites:
Mayo Clinic Definition of Sprains and Strains
Medline Plus Overview of Sprains and Strains
Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of NewportUrgentCare.com. The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.