Sprains and strains are so closely linked in the way that they sound and the way that they are spelt. However, the truth is that they are two quite different and distinct injuries. It is important to understand the difference between the two so that when a doctor says you have a strain or a sprain, you know what they are talking about as well as prescribing to and sticking to the correct treatment. The main difference between the two is that sprains are associated with the joints and the ligaments, whereas strains are associated with the muscle. Therefore the treatment of these two different injuries is going to be quite different because they are not even associated with the same part of the body. Sprains and strains must be diagnosed correctly and then treated properly after the diagnosis.
When a sprain occurs, the person will often think they have broken a bone, but it is just a ligament injury. However, some very severe sprains do involve small broken bones. There is also typically a lot of swelling and immediate pain. Sprains often occur when the joint is twisted in some fashion. Strains on the other hand occur in the muscle. This is when a muscle is stretched too far or has had too much pressure placed on it. Strains most commonly occur during heavy lifting or returning to an athletic activity after a long period of time without warming up. Sprains and strains should be taken somewhat seriously as they are injuries that could result in future problems. However, the sprain is said to be a more serious injury. Sprains typically take between three or four weeks to heal, whereas a strain takes a little less with about a week to heal. Sprains and strains both involve rest and icing of the injured area. In addition, sometimes a doctor will prescribe pain medications and therefore should be taken as directed. Typically sprains are wrapped in a type of compression bandage, but strains often are not. As well, there is typically elevation needed with a sprain but not with a strain. Sprains and strains do share the similarity of being sports related injuries as well as child and youth injuries. This is because children and youth are more often involved in several athletic activities. It is also important to remember that sometimes sprains and strains can result in increased likelihood of re-injury of the area and therefore some type of physical therapy can be helpful to strengthen the joint or muscle as well as prevent further injuries.