What is the Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?

February 13, 2023
2 min read
What is the Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?

At the moment of injury, it can be hard to tell the difference between a sprain and a strain. The pain, however, is very real! 

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of ligaments, which are the bands of tissue connecting two bones together. The most common location for a sprain is the ankle. 

A strain or pulled muscle is an injury to a muscle or band of tissue that attaches muscle to bone. One may or may not accompany the other, but thankfully, the treatment for both is largely the same.

Treating a sprain requires rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Mild sprains can be treated at home, but severe sprains sometimes require surgery to repair torn ligaments. Similarly, initial treatment for a muscle strain includes the same regimen of treatments. They also should be successfully treated at home but may require surgery in severe cases.

Sprain: Causes and Symptoms

Sprains are caused when a ligament is overextended or torn while severely stressing a joint. Depending on the severity and location, the exact symptoms of a sprain may vary. Symptoms will most likely include pain, swelling, bruising, and limited ability to move the affected joint. At the time of the injury, you may hear or feel a “pop” in the joint as well.

Different sprains can occur during a number of varying circumstances. For instance, landing awkwardly from a jump can lead to a sprained ankle. Similar actions can impact other joints put under pressure, like the knee, wrist, or thumb.

Children are more likely to experience fractures than sprains. This is because children have softer tissue, called growth plates, near the end of their bones. This means the ligaments are often stronger than the plates they’re connected to and less likely to damage before fracturing.

Several risk factors can contribute to a sprain. These include environmental conditions, like slippery or uneven surfaces. Fatigue is also a factor that could lead to additional stress or spraining. Ill-fitting or poorly maintained footwear or other sporting equipment can also increase the risk of sprain.

What to Do to Treat a Sprained Wrist

A sprained wrist is a common sprain, frequently caused by landing on an outstretched hand during a fall. The many ligaments in the wrist can be impacted or even torn during such an impact, causing a sprain. The more you are able to rest your wrist, the faster it will heal. Similarly, regular icing and compression will help speed up a sprained wrist’s recovery. 

Muscle Strain Symptoms

Muscle strain symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the injury. Symptoms include pain or tenderness at the site of injury, along with redness, bruising, and limited motion. They may have accompanying muscle spasms, swelling, or muscle weakness as well.

Sprain vs Strain: Treatment Options Explained

Most sprains are mild and can be treated at home. Injuries that cause sprains can also cause serious injuries such as fractures. You should see a doctor if you can’t move or bear weight on the affected joint. Similarly, see a doctor if there’s pain directly over the bones of an injured joint, or numbness in any part of the injured area.

Set a Sprain or Strain Right With BASS Medical Group

If a sprain or strain isn’t recovering properly, it may be time to get an evaluation from a medical professional. 

BASS Medical Group’s board-certified specialists will help treat any problematic sprain or strain you suffer from. Whether that’s a sprained wrist, ankle or knee, or any other joint, they’ll be there to help. Even if you're dealing with bursitis inflammation or another joint complication, there are options available. Schedule a consultation and find relief today.