Reviewed by: Amy Hinshaw
Did your ankle twist while exercising and now you’re experiencing pain? Or are you having trouble moving a certain muscle after lifting a heavy object?
You may be experiencing a sprain or strain.
Sprains and strains are injuries that can affect anyone and almost any part of the body. Knowing how to identify and treat these injuries can help you recover and get back to your active life faster when you experience a sprain or strain. Here, we’ll explain the differences between sprains and strains, their symptoms and treatment plans.
Despite their similar sounding names, sprains and strains are different. Both sprains and strains are relatively common and can be caused by a twist or stretch that occurs in an awkward position, ore from sports, exercise or overuse. If you don’t properly warm up your body or lift heavy objects correctly, you’re more likely to experience a sprain or strain.
The main difference between the two types of injuries is what part of the body each affect. A sprain occurs when ligaments — the bands of tissues that connect our bones — are stretched too far or stretched in the wrong direction. A strain affects your muscles and tendons, the fibrous tissue that connects your bones to your muscles.
Sprains and strains can occur anywhere in the body. Sprains are most common in areas of the body that are vulnerable during a fall.
The most common sprains include:
Strains usually occur in the same few places, including the hamstrings, quadriceps and back. Athletes and people who use and work the same muscles repetitively are at greater risk of experiencing a strain.
The symptoms of a sprain or strain can vary depending on the severity of the injury. However, it’s likely you’ve suffered a sprain or strain if you have any of the following symptoms:
Not all sprains and strains are the same — some can be more severe than others. Let’s take a look at the different degrees of sprains:
Strains are categorized on the same scale:
The best way to properly assess your injury is to visit your local urgent care or your primary care doctor.
The PRICE method is the standard first treatment for sprains and strains. While some severe sprains and strains may need more intense treatment, starting the PRICE protocol as quickly as possible after an injury can help improve your outcome regardless of the severity.
PRICE treatment includes:
A sprained ankle’s recovery time — and that of any sprained body part — will depend on the severity of the injury. For mild injuries, you can expect to start feeling better in as little as two weeks. However, even though you may start to feel better, continue to avoid any strenuous activity for up to eight weeks to prevent further damage.
For more severe strains, recovery may take up to 12 weeks. Meanwhile, sprains that result in surgery will have an even longer recovery time. Surgically repaired sprains may take several months to properly heal. If surgery is needed for your injury, your surgeon will provide you with a more detailed timeline for recovery.
If you’re starting up new fitness routines or activities, it’s important to build up to them. Stretch and warm up before any physical activity to prevent sprains and strains.
If you suspect you’re experiencing a sprain or strain, visit a SouthStar Urgent Care near you for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Our providers are committed to bringing you personal and effective care to help you feel better faster. Get in line, online today!