Sprain versus Strain? Do you know the difference
Sprain versus Strain?
When we suffer an injury we usually hear the terms sprain and strains.
But what do they mean?
What’s the difference?
Is there a difference?
Yeah, sort of - just like our previous blog on elbow pain – they are similar but we can explain all of the differences so that you can understand what these injuries mean.
We are aiming to give you the best advice and quality education on injury management and prevention in order to help you stay pain and injury free – we hope you enjoy this edition of the blog.
How do they happen?
Sprains and strains happen when a joint or soft tissue is taken beyond its limit, causing the tissue to become overstretched causing damage.
There are many ways in which this can happen such as:
- Trauma and impact
- Forceful muscle contraction
- Not being warmed up and sudden movement applied to a muscle or joint
- Twists, Slips, Trips.
- Overuse of a muscle or joint
There’s some of these things that we simply can’t do anything about such as bad tackle or challenge in football, or impact in combat sports. A good warmup and physical preparation plan can limit your chances of suffering an injury.
What can I do when they happen?
When you suffer an injury such as a sprain or strain you should get to work immediately on it. You may have heard the letters RICE have been mentioned when managing a new injury.
This has changed in recent times to PRICE and this stands for:
P – Protection – Remove yourself from danger or the activity which caused it and discontinue exercise or anything that may be causing further harm.
R – Relative Rest – do not stop moving or exercising completely. If you have hurt your knee, hip or ankle – maybe reduce the amount of walking you are doing but find ways to move the affected body part regularly – this will help the tissues to heal and get blood to them
I – ice – get cold on t the injury within 72 hours to reduce the damage caused and limit the bleed within the injury. This can make your injury less severe.
C – Compression of the injury – this helps to reduce bleed and reduce the swelling which can make it more painful and also delay recovery,
E – Elevate your injury above heart height to ensure the swelling drains efficiently.
If you are unsure about this or don’t know what you have done – get booked in for an assessment with an injury specialist to give you a recovery plan.
We typically advise against going to A&E, Walk in Centre’s and GP surgeries unless you have a serious problem such as a suspected fracture. These services are currently under pressure and they will typically advise just as we have done in an argument.
You will benefit from seeing an injury specialist more than the above services.
What is a strain?
A strain is a muscular or tendon injury.
It refers to the amount of fibres which have been strained in an injury.
Common examples of strains are hamstring, quads and calf strains. The muscle belly will have suffered an injury causing it to tear, thus leading to pain and dysfunction.
There are different types and grading of strains and they are as follows:
Grade I (mild) strains affect only a limited number of fibers in the muscle. There is no decrease in strength and there is a fully active and passive range of motion. Pain and tenderness are often delayed to the next day.
Grade II (moderate) strains have nearly half of muscle fibers torn. Acute and significant pain is accompanied by swelling and a minor decrease in muscle strength.
Grade III (severe) strains represent the complete rupture of the muscle. This means either the tendon is separated from the muscle belly or the muscle belly is actually torn in 2 parts. Severe swelling and pain and a complete loss of function are characteristic of this type of strain.
Mild strain can recover quickly within 2-4 weeks, more serious ones can extend up to 3 months plus. This will vary on which body part.
What is a sprain?
A sprain is a ligament injury which involves trauma to the joint.
Ligaments hold ones to bones and typically occur with impact, twists and over extension injuries to body parts.
Ankle inversion injuries, twisted knees and hyperextension of the elbow can all be common causes of sprain injuries.
Again – there are different grading for each type of sprain:
Grade I - structural damage only on microscopic level, with slight local tenderness and without joint instability.
Grade II - partial tear (rupture) of the ligament, visible swelling and noticeable tenderness, but without joint instability (or with mild instability).
Grade III - a severe sprain: complete rupture of the ligament with significant swelling and with instability of the joint.
Mild sprain will recover in around 6 weeks – more serious sprains can take 3 months or more.
So we hope that helps to clarify what the difference between a sprain and strain is. If you have suffered an injury and you need help identifying the problem or putting an action plan for recovery in place – please book online or give us a call.
We are experienced with dealing with sprains and strains of all types – please check our 5 star reviews on google to see how our clients have been getting great results.
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Thanks from the MSK Sports Injury Clinic Team
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