Sprains vs. Strains
Some people get confused between a sprain and a strain.
A sprain is the effect of an injury to a ligament. A ligament is a tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint. One or more ligaments have been torn or stretched out when a person is suffering from a sprain.
A sprain in the ankle is the most common sprain. However, you can also get a sprain on your wrist if you fall and you use your hand to support your body weight. There are certain sports such as skiing that can cause a sprain on your thumb.
A strain happens when there is an injury to a muscle or tendon. A tendon is fibrous cords of tissue that connect each muscle to the bone. A muscle or tendon has been torn or stretched when a strain occurs.
Hamstring and back strains are the most common. Sports such as soccer, football, basketball, hockey, and wrestling can increase your chances of getting muscle strains on your back and legs. Golf, gymnastics, tennis, and rowing are just a few of the sports that can cause an arm or hand strain.
How Would You Know if You Have a Strain or Sprain?
Symptoms of a Sprain:
- Inability to move the affected joint
- Moderate to excruciating pain
Symptoms of a Strain:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle cramps
- Difficulty in moving
Why and How do I Get Sprains or Strains?
Twisting, falling, even tripping can force your joint out from its original position. When this happens, the ligaments around the joint affected can tear or stretch. Sprains usually occur when you:
- Fall on the side of your foot
- Twist your knee or ankle
- Fall and land on your arm or wrist
When you pull or twist a muscle or tendon, a strain may happen. Strains can develop over time, days, or weeks, or can happen suddenly. An acute or sudden strain can be caused by:
- Lifting heavy objects using an improper position
- Overstressing your muscles
- A recent injury
When you move your muscles and tendons the same way repeatedly, a chronic strain may occur.
What Kind of Tests Should I Get?
Your doctor can check for sprains and strains by:
- Physical examination on the area of the injury
- Prescribing an x-ray to ensure that you don’t have any broken bones
- Asking you questions regarding the injury
- Prescribing an MRI to closely examine the area of injury or pain
How Can Sprains and Strains be Treated?
- Do not keep moving the injured area. Rest if you must. If your ankle or knee hurts, your doctor can tell you to use a cane or crutches.
- Put cold compress or ice on the affected area for 20 minutes at least 4 to 8 times a day.
- Put pressure by squeezing or compressing the injured area with special bandages, boots, splints, or casts. Your doctor will tell you which is the best remedy and how tight it should be.
- Take pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
- Elevate your injured ankle, elbow, knee, or wrist up on a pillow.
When the pain and swelling have subsided, your doctor may suggest that you exercise the affected area. This can help prevent muscle or bone stiffness. It can also help strengthen the injured area. You can opt for a physical therapist and he or she can tell you when you can start doing normal activities again. If you start too soon, you may injure the area again.
How Can I Prevent Sprains and Strains From Happening To Me?
- Do not exercise or do vigorous activities such as playing sports when you’re tired or in pain.
- Eat a well-balanced diet to help keep the muscles strong.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight that is proportionate to your height.
- Try to avoid slipping or falling.
- Regular exercise is highly encouraged.
- Wear shoes that fit perfectly.
- Always stretch and warm-up before playing sports.
- Running on flat surfaces.
- Wear proper protective equipment and gear when playing sports.