Sprains and strains are common orthopedic injuries that are both a result of damage to the soft tissues in the body such as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Sprains and strains have many of the same symptoms, what is the difference between the two?
What is the Difference Between Sprains and Strains?
The main difference between sprains and strains is that a sprain involves the bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones, and a strain involves the muscle or tendons, which attach the muscle to the bone.
What are the Causes and Risk Factors?
Both sprains and strains typically happen unexpectedly from twisting or turning in a sudden and awkward motion. Common causes of sprains and strains include:
The risk of sprains or strains is common in athletes from the stress of contact sports and sudden direction switches on the joints and muscles.
Too Much Physical Activity
Overuse and overtraining of the same part of the body can put repetitive stress on the tendons or muscles and increase the risk of sprains or strains.
Often times sprains or strains can happen from a sudden awkward movement during an everyday task such as:
- Walking down the stairs and falling on an outstretched arm
- Rolling an ankle from walking on uneven surfaces
- Lifting a heavy object
Common sprains or strains include ankle sprains, ligament tears in the knee, hamstring tears, achilles tendon tears, and wrist and thumb sprains.
What are the Symptoms?
Sprains and strains have a few of the same symptoms such as pain, swelling, and bruising, but there are also other symptoms typical of either a sprain or a strain.
Symptoms of a torn ligament, or sprain, include:
- Limited range of motion with joint
- A sudden popping sound and feeling at the time of injury
- Instability or difficulty bearing weight
Symptoms of muscle or tendon strains include:
- Limited range of motion in the area of injury
- Muscle weakness
- Spasms and cramping in the muscle affected
How do I Prevent Injuries?
Although many ligament and muscle injuries happen unexpectedly, there are some ways to prevent sprains and strains such as:
- Ensure a proper warm-up before practice or training
- Strengthen the muscles to protect the joints (weight lifting, stability training)
- Be aware of your surroundings such as slippery floors or debris when you are walking
What Treatment Options are Available?
Mild sprains and strains can be treated at home with the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevate) method. For more severe sprains or strains, making an appointment with a primary care physician, sports medicine specialist, or physical therapist is highly recommended.
In case of sudden injury, DMOS also has Urgent Injury Clinics in Ankeny and West Des Moines open 6 days a week with no appointment necessary.
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