Sprains and Strains

What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?

Sprains and strains are injuries that commonly occur in people engaged in active pursuits, but they can happen to anybody. Most people experience several sprains and strains over the course of their lives. Although both kinds of injuries can arise from similar circumstances, they affect different parts of the musculoskeletal system.

Sprains, which are most common in the ankles, occur when the ligaments in a joint become stretched or torn. It can result from walking or running on an uneven surface, pivoting during an athletic activity, bracing a fall with your wrist, or anything else that puts stress on a joint.

A strain, by contrast, is a stretching or tearing of the muscle or tendon. It can happen to any part of the body, and is common in the lower back and the hamstring. A strain can result from falling, slipping, or lifting or throwing a heavy object.

Most sprains and strains can be treated by a combination of rest and mild stability exercises. It is important to manage these kinds of injuries correctly, to prevent them from getting worse.


What are the symptoms of sprains and strains?

The symptoms of sprains and strains vary according to the individual, what part of the body is hurt, how the injury occurred and how severe it is.

The most common symptoms of both kinds of injury include pain and swelling, bruising, and limited ability to move the affected part of the body. Strains may be accompanied by muscle spasms, and in the case of sprains, you might hear or feel your joint “pop” at the time of the injury.


How can I avoid these kinds of injuries?

Sprains and strains are accidents that can happen to anybody, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk.

  • Be physically active. Poor conditioning can weaken your muscles and leave them prone to injury.
  • Rest after periods of intense activity. This will prevent your muscles from becoming fatigued.
  • Warm up properly. Loosening your muscles prior to exercise will increase your range of motion and decrease your risk of injury.
  • Use proper equipment. Proper athletic footwear and other gear will reduce your risk of getting injured.
  • Look where you’re going. Take care on slippery or uneven surfaces.

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