Strains and sprains can be quite common injuries for people of practically all ages, and most people suffer them at least once in their lifetime. They are one of the most frequent reasons people seek a health care provider.
These injuries occur frequently in active, athletic people, and most treated sprains and strains heal within 2 to 4 weeks. Let’s take a look at the differences between these two types of orthopedic injuries:
What Are Sprains?
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which is the thick connective tissue that holds two or more bones in place at a joint. When a sprain occurs, one or more ligaments are overstretched, partially torn, or fully torn.
What Are Strains?
A strain is an injury to a muscle or to a tendon. A tendon is the strong, fiber-like tissue that connects a muscle to a bone and helps their movement. In a strain, a muscle or tendon is overstretched, partially torn, or fully torn.
How They Happen
These two types of musculoskeletal injuries have certain similarities and differences in how they can occur, including the following:
How Can I Get a Sprain?
As sprain can be caused by many things, but especially during a fall or a sudden change of direction. The forceful movement tries to push the joint out of its regular position, overstretching or tearing the ligament that holds it together.
Sprains often happen when:
- You fall and all of your body weight lands on an arm or hand.
- You fall directly on the side of your foot or hand.
- Your body suddenly changes direction while your leg remains in place – thereby hurting the ligament. This can happen during sports when an opponent hits or tackles you, or during normal activities like lifting a heavy object or stretching to reach something.
Why Would I Get a Strain?
We usually refer to a strain as a pulled muscle or tendon. Unlike a sprain – which almost always occurs because of a sudden impact, such as a sprained ankle – strains can happen suddenly or can develop over a period of time.
A strain often develops over weeks or months of repetitive overuse. Back strain and hamstring strains are the most common types of strains that are reported to doctors.
Symptoms of Each Injury
A sprain may cause you to experience moderate pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving the affected joint. You might have felt a tear or pop when the injury happened.
In sharp contrast to sprains, strains cause severe pain. They may also bring muscle spasms or cramps and additional swelling.
Will It Heal Naturally or Should I See a Doctor?
Contact your health care provider if:
- You feel numbness in the injured area or down your legs.
- You experience severe pain and are unable to walk more than a few steps.
- You discover a lump or an area with an unfamiliar shape or color after the injury.
- Your pain makes sleep difficult or is present when at rest.
- One of your extremities (legs/feet, arms/hands) or your back is weaker than usual.
Skilled Orthopedists in Palm Beach County
Our comprehensive team of orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists is ready to take care of every type of musculoskeletal injury or condition you have. If you have any questions about our orthopedic services or would like to make an appointment, please call us at (561) 733-5888.
If you prefer, you can also use our convenient online appointment request form. Our friendly staff at Personalized Orthopedics of the Palm Beaches welcomes your call and looks forward to serving you.