You’re not alone if you’ve ever used the terms “sprain” and “strain” interchangeably. These two terms are frequently used to describe soft tissue overstretching or tearing in and around your joint. Knowing the key distinction can help you distinguish between these two injuries.
A joint sprain occurs when ligaments, which are bands of tissue that connect bones in a joint, tear or overstretch. The ankle joint is the most commonly injured area.
A joint strain, on the other hand, is caused by the tearing or overstretching of muscles and tendons, which are dense fibrous cords of tissue that connect your bones to various muscles. The hamstring and lower back are the most commonly strained muscles.
Because the injuries are so similar, the symptoms are frequently misunderstood. The main distinction is that a sprain may cause bruising around the affected joint, whereas a strain may cause spasms in the affected muscle.
Following a brief physical examination, your doctor may request an X-ray to rule out any breaks or fractures. If the results are inconclusive, an MRI, or another imaging test, may be required. An MRI provides any medical professional with a very detailed view of your joint, revealing very small or thin breaks that an X-ray would miss. If nothing is found, your doctor will most likely diagnose you with a sprain or strain.
We are proud to offer water therapy near Horsham to help you get back on your feet after a serious injury. That being said, mild strains and sprains are treated using the RICE technique, which stands for the following:
- Rest: Avoid using the affected joint to allow it to heal.
- Ice: Although you should not apply ice directly to your skin, it can help reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Compression: Compression can help reduce swelling, but wrapping too tightly can cut off vital blood supply.
- Elevation: Keep the affected joint elevated above the level of your heart.
While mild strains and sprains can usually be returned to limited activities in a matter of days, we understand that discomfort levels can sometimes become debilitating. If you’ve been in pain for a long time, you should seek the help of a physical therapist.