A sprain is the tearing or stretching of ligaments, which are the short bands of flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects bone to bone, bone to cartilage or holds a joint together. A strain is also a tear or stretch, but in a muscle or a tendon, which is the flexible cord of fibrous connective tissue that connects a muscle to a bone.
What Causes Sprains?
A sprain can be caused by anything that forces a joint out of its normal position. This includes getting hit by force, falling or twisting. Ankle sprains are the most common type of sprain, with more than 3 million cases per year. Characterizations of a sprain may include: pain, swelling, bruising, instability, and loss of mobility.
What Causes Strains?
Strains are caused by the twisting or pulling of a tendon or muscle. Strains can be sudden, or develop gradually over time. The most common sites for strains are the hamstring and the back. Characterizations of a strain may include: pain, muscle spasms, weakness when using affected muscle, cramps, swelling, bruising, instability, and loss of mobility.
Who Is Most Susceptible To Sprains & Strains?
Athletes participating in both contact and non-contact sports are likely to suffer from strains and/or sprains. Those who are in contact sports are most likely to suffer from sudden strains, but repetitive motions in non-contact sports such as tennis, golf, and swimming have been known to cause gradual strains.
How Are Sprains & Strains Treated?
Most sprains and strains can be treated at home using “RICE” therapy which stands for:
- Reset: Rest and do not put weight on the injured area for at least 24-48 hours.
- Ice: Ice the affected area. Try to begin icing as soon as possible after the injury and continue icing for 10-20 minutes, 4-8 times a day for the first 48 hours.
- Compression: Wrapping the affected area with an elastic bandage will help decrease any swelling you may be experiencing. You must be careful not to wrap the area too tightly, as this could have the unintended consequence of causing the swelling to worsen.
- Elevation: Elevate the affected area to prevent fluid from collecting, which will also reduce swelling.