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Sprain vs. Strain: What is the Difference?

September 19th, 2017 by Synergy Admin

If you’re confused about the difference between a sprain and a strain, you’re not alone. These terms are misused very commonly, and it’s understandable to be a bit unclear. Not only are their names nearly identical, but they are both soft tissue injuries and they share similar symptoms.

Sprain vs. Strain What is the Difference

The key factor that differentiates these two injuries is the part of the anatomy that is really being injured. A joint sprain is an overstretching or tearing of the ligaments that attach bone to bone – a common injury in the ankle. A muscle strain, on the other hand, is an overstretching or tearing of the dense fibrous tendons that attach muscle to bone. This type of injury is particularly common in the hamstrings or the lower back.

Symptoms associated with both sprains and strains include limited range of motion, pain, and swelling. However, joint sprains tend to cause bruising as well, while strains often cause muscle spasms.

Proper diagnosis is important with sprains and strains alike so that you don’t hinder the healing process and so that you can receive the sports injury treatment your body needs. Both injuries are typically diagnosed with a physical examination by a doctor, but you may also have an X-ray and/or an MRI taken to allow the doctor to rule out any breaks or fractures.

Treatments for sprains and strains vary based on the severity of the injury. Mild to moderate (type I/II) sprains and strains can both be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (better known as RICE). In addition to RICE, chiropractic care, physical therapy, frequency-specific micro-current, and hyperbaric chamber sessions can help to expedite healing. More severe (type III) sprains and strains, however, may require surgery to reattach the ligaments or tendons.

As with any injury, it’s ideal to prevent sprains and strains before they occur. You can help to protect your body with these techniques:

  • Synergy Release Technique (a customized technique available exclusively at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™)
  • Massage therapy
  • Regular stretching and exercise
  • Foam rolling (using a specialized foam cylinder that rolls slowly over the area as a form of massage)
  • Proper warm-up before exercise

The old adage “knowledge is power” certainly holds true in the field of athletics and sports medicine. Knowing the differences between strains and sprains, the symptoms they exhibit, the level of your injury, and more will allow you to limit your risks and to heal more quickly if an injury does occur. For further help either preventing or healing an injury, schedule an appointment at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more health tips.