The Difference Between Sprain and Strains

Sprain and strains are the most common soft tissue injuries experienced by athletes or any other person. These two words are often used interchangeably. However, both are conditions that can be managed effectively with the proper treatment.


Inside of the body, the bones are attached by thick, fibrous tissue called ligaments.  This ligaments hold the bones together in the form of joints.  When there is injury to a ligament (often from over-stretching of the ligament) it is called a sprain.

Sprains commonly occur on knees, ankles, wrists, and fingers. These areas of the body are prone to twisting and falling. An awkward position of the joint may cause the ligaments to end up tearing. Sprains are also common in athletes who place added stress on the joints or through injury.

Signs and symptoms

  1. Joint instability. Ligament aids to stabilize joints and when it is torn, it may cause discomfort.
  2. Excessive mobility. When the ligament is torn, the passive blocking structure is damaged, and thus, the joint can become hypermobile compared to the other side.


A strain is a stretch or a tear of a muscle or tendon. Tendons connect skeletal muscles to the bones. When the muscle is stretched beyond its normal range, tensile force is produced which causes muscle fibers to tear.

Strains commonly affect the back, neck, shoulder, and hamstring (muscles in between the hip and knee). The most common causes of strains are repetitive movement and overexertion of force that could cause so much trauma to the said body areas. Among this is lifting a heavy object or performing strenuous exercises repetitively.

Signs and symptoms

  1. Muscle spasm. It occurs right after the muscle has been injured which serves as a mechanism for the healing process to start.
  2. Restricted movement. Muscle injury can cause pain and swelling that could limit the range of motion of the affected body area.

Both sprain and strain exhibit common symptoms of a normal response of the body to an injury. Right after it, a person can feel a sudden onset of pain to the affected area, swelling, bruising, and a limited range of motion.

Interventions for sprain and strain (The RICE Method)

The RICE Method can alleviate the onset of symptoms of sprain and strains mostly swelling and pain.

  1. Rest. This can prevent further damage to the injured muscle. Avoid doing any activities that could put tension on the affected area for 24 to 48 hours.
  2. Ice. An ice pack can simply reduce swelling and pain. Apply ice wrapped with a towel for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours for the first 48 hours right after the injury.
  3. Compression. Wrap the affected area with an appropriate and not too tight (to have a good blood flow) elastic bandage. This can prevent swelling and protection.
  4. Elevation. Raise the affected part above the level of your heart. This can prevent swelling and pain.

Alongside the RICE Method, patients can work with their provider, if the issue is severe or not resolving.

Dr. Ungar, at Belden Village of Chiropractic & Wellness Center, in Canton OH provides treatment for sprain and strain type injuries.




4200 Munson Street NW, Suite B, Canton, Ohio 44718



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