“Sprains” and “strains” are often used interchangeably when describing a tearing or overstretching of the soft tissues in your body. In the moment of injury, you’re most likely not worried about semantics.
However, these two terms distinguish the injuries of different body parts. The signs for these injuries can be very different as well. Knowing the difference between a sprain and a strain can help you determine the best course of action if you find yourself in this painful predicament.
Sprain vs. Strain
A sprain happens when the ligaments surrounding a joint are overstretched or torn. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect two bones together in a joint. Most people experience a sprain in the ankle joint when their weight is poorly distributed, or when there is too much weight for the ankle to support.
A strain is an overstretching or tear in the muscles or tendons. Our tendons are thick and fibrous cords of tissue that connect bones to muscles. Most people experience a muscle strain in the hamstring muscle or in the lower back.
Determining Whether You Have a Sprain or a Strain
Sprains and strains are often hard to distinguish for someone who’s not in the medical field, because they cause very similar symptoms and sensations. In both injuries, the injured person may experience pain, swelling, and limited mobility in the affected joint or muscle.
The following are some small differences that can help you determine what the problem might be:
· With a sprain, there may be a small “popping” sound from the joint at the time of injury. There may also be some bruising in the area.
· Signs of a strain could be muscle spasms.
· One way to remember the difference between the two terms is to focus on the differentiating letter between the two words:
o The “P” in sprain can refer to the “pop” sound your joint makes when the ligaments are injured.
o The “T” in strain refers to the word tendon (or muscle).
Treatment of a Sprained Ligament or a Strained Tendon
Initially, treatment for both sprains and strains is the same: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Whatever you do, do not work through the pain or try to stretch the area. This can cause more pain and damage to the injury.
Most mild sprains and strains can be taken care of at home. However, if a sprain or a strain is severe, it could require surgery to repair torn ligaments, muscles, or tendons.
Who Can Help With a Sprain or Strain Injury?
If you are unable to walk more than four steps without serious pain, unable to move the disturbed joint, have pain directly over the bones of the injured joint, or experience numbness in any part of the injured area, contact the skilled medical team at Patient Care Now Urgent Care.
Whether you have a sprain or a strain, the professionals at Patient Care Now are prepared to treat you. That’s why Patient Care Now Urgent Care in Fairless Hills is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Owned and operated by board-certified emergency medicine providers, we pride ourselves in providing a seamless medical experience to our patients. Call us at (267) 202-6433 for all of your urgent care needs, or use our online check-in form. We look forward to serving you and your family.