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Sprain vs Strain – What’s the Difference?

The terms “sprain” and “strain” are often used synonymously. However, they are not the same thing. They may have similar symptoms but involve different parts of the body and different treatment options.

What Is A Sprain?

A sprain is a stretch or tear of the ligaments that connect bones together in your joints. Most commonly, this injury occurs in the ankles or wrists. Many athletes experience sprains during their careers, and they often don’t require surgery to fix. Rest and sometimes physical therapy are usually enough to heal the injury. However, for severe sprains surgery may be the only way to ensure a correct and rapid healing process.

Symptoms of Sprains

Since sprains happen within or around the joints, the most common symptom is pain around the affected area. Other symptoms include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Limited flexibility
  • Difficulty moving the joint
  • A popping sensation during injury

What Is A Strain?

Similar to a sprain, a strain is a stretch or tear to the muscles or the tissue that connects muscles to bone. Causes for sprains can be fatigue, poor equipment (if playing a sport), or unsafe environmental conditions.

Symptoms of Strains

The most common symptom of a muscle strain is a sudden onset of pain and soreness. Muscle spasms are also very common indicator that you have strained your muscle. Other symptoms include:

  • Limited range of movement
  • Bruising or discoloration
  • Swelling
  • A “knotted-up” feeling
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness

If you think you may be suffering from a sprain or strain, make an appointment at Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine and be seen by a specialist. Or, come to one of our Urgent Care locations and be seen by an orthopaedic physician without an appointment!