Sprains and Strains
Difference Between Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains are among the most common sports injuries.
A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn. Ligaments connect bones together in a joint and help stabilize the joint. For example, the ligaments in your knee connect the upper leg with the lower leg, enabling you to walk and run.
A sprain may be caused by a fall or blow to the body, such as falling on an outstretched arm, sliding into a base, landing on the side of the foot when you jump, or running on an uneven surface.
A strain occurs when you twist, pull, or tear a muscle or tendon. Tendons attach muscles to bone. Acute strains usually occur when the muscle or tendon is suddenly stretched too far. Chronic strains are the result of overuse, or repetitive stress on muscles and tendons.
The orthopedic doctors at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in San Antonio are experts at diagnosing and treating sprains and strains. Learn more below.
Symptoms of Sprains and Strains
Sprain: Pain, bruising, and inflammation are common symptoms of a sprain. You may also feel a pop in the joint. If you suffer a severe sprain, in which ligaments are torn, the pain may be excruciating and your joint will lose all function. Even a moderate sprain, in which the ligament is partially torn, produces joint instability and some swelling, while a mild sprain merely stretches the ligament but the joint is not loosened.
Strain: Symptoms of a strain may include pain, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, swelling, and cramping. A severe strain, in which the muscle and/or tendon is partially or completely ruptured, can cause debilitating pain. With a moderate strain, where the muscle or tendon is overstretched and slightly torn, you are likely to lose some muscle function. A mild strain occurs when the muscle or tendon is only slightly stretched or pulled.
Treatment for Sprains and Strains
Treatment will depend on the severity of your injury. Mild sprains and strains should be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation to reduce swelling and help minimize pain. You may also benefit from physical therapy to help your injury heal faster.
Severe sprains or strains may require immobilization with a brace or splint, or surgery to repair a torn ligament or tendon or a ruptured muscle, followed by months of physical therapy.
How to Prevent Sprains and Strains
In both seasoned athletes and weekend warriors, some of the most common causes of sprains and strains include fatigue, poor conditioning, improper warm up (or not warming up at all) prior to exercise, ill-fitting shoes or equipment, and adverse conditions such as slippery or uneven surfaces.
To mitigate these risk factors, you should:
- Get a good night’s sleep prior to practice or competition.
- Eat a well-balanced diet to nourish your muscles.
- Take part in a conditioning program to build your muscle strength.
- Perform stretching exercises every day.
- Wear properly fitting shoes.
- Always warm up before any sports activity, including practice.
- Wear protective equipment (helmets, pads, etc.) and make sure it is well-maintained.
- Be aware of the conditions and keep an eye out for potential hazards.
If you suffer a sprain or strain, schedule an appointment with one of the physicians at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. Call our San Antonio office at (210) 692-7400 or use our online form to request an appointment.