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The Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain

“How do I tell if I have a sprain or a strain?” This is a common question amongst patients in terms of injuries. So, in this post, we will be providing simple definitions and explaining the basic sprain and strain differences. We will also share some basic facts about the treatment of these conditions and how long it takes to recover after proper treatment.

What Is a Sprain?

A sprain is the tearing, twisting or stretching of ligaments, which are bands of tissue that link two bones together at your joints. Common locations for this injury include the ankle, wrist, thumb, knee and back.

What Is a Strain?

A strain is a tearing, twisting or stretching of a tendon or muscle. The fibrous cord that links bones to muscles is called a tendon. Strains frequently occur in the lower back as well as the hamstring muscle found behind your thigh.

Differences Between a Sprain and a Strain

If you've tried to find the difference between a sprain and strain without success, you're not alone. The two terms are used by people to describe injuries to the tissues around joints, and the symptoms are similar. But there are a few key differences in the symptoms of each injury:

  • Symptoms of Sprains: Bruising, a sensation of pain at the affected joint, limited flexibility, swelling and limited range of motion.
  • Symptoms of Strains: Muscle spasms, a sensation of pain at the affected joint, limited flexibility and limited range of motion.

The main difference between a sprain and a strain is that a sprain can include bruising at the joint while a strain will cause spasms in the muscles.

Sprain and Strain Treatment

Before you experience effective treatment of a strain or sprain, you must visit a physician for a physical examination and some testing. The most common tests include an X-ray and MRI scan.

After your doctor has examined the results of the test(s), you will receive a similar treatment for mild sprains and strains. The treatment technique is called R.I.C.E., and it stands for the following:

  • Rest: Allow the affected joint to rest and avoid using it until it is healed.
  • Ice: Use ice to minimize inflammation and swelling. Apply the ice for just 20 minutes at a time and place a cloth between the skin and the ice bag to prevent frost bites.
  • Compression: Wrap the affected joint in a trainer's tape or bandage. But do not make it so tight that you don't cut off blood supply.
  • Elevation: Keep the injured joint elevated above your heart level to reduce swelling. If your ankle or knee is affected, you may have to stay in bed to do this.

R.I.C.E. will give you quick relief within the first two days of your injury. But more severe forms of sprains or strains may need surgery to repair damaged tendons, ligaments and muscles. The doctor may also put the affected joint in a cast to aid stability while healing.

How Long Will It Take You to Recover?

The amount of time required for you to recover fully depends on the severity of the injury and the quality of care you receive immediately after it occurs. With proper medical treatment and after care, the recovery time for a strain or sprain is usually as follows:

  • Mild injuries will heal within five to 14 days.
  • Moderately severe injuries could take four to six weeks.
  • Very severe injuries could take eight to 12 weeks to heal.

At AllBetterCare, we offer top-rated medical treatment for people who have sprains or strains, from X-ray and diagnosis to effective treatment and after care. We also recommend the best way to avoid re-injury.

If you or your loved one has a sprain or strain, please give us a call now or register online for a treatment time later. You can also walk into any of our locations and receive instant attention. We will attend to you promptly whether you have health insurance or not.