Strain vs. Sprain

Difference Between Strain And Sprain

Strain

Strain, an injury to a muscle or the attachment of a muscle or tendon caused by excessive stretching, pulling, or shearing, but not tearing. It is generally a minor injury and heals without treatment other than rest and sometimes partial immobilization with an elastic bandage or similar type of strapping. If the strain is very severe or does not heal quickly, a physician should be consulted.

A strain is often confused with a sprain. A sprain, however, does not involve muscles or tendons, but rather is an injury to a ligament resulting from twisting or shearing of the joint. Laymen also frequently use the term “strain” to apply to injuries resulting from wear and tear, overuse, minor infection, or inflammation of almost any organ of the body. For example, a minor irritation to the throat or larynx is sometimes referred to as a strain of the voice.

Sprain

Sprain, an injury to a joint in which the soft tissues—ligaments, tendons, and muscles—are torn, stretched, or damaged. There is no dislocation or fracture of bones. A sprain is caused by violent or sudden stretching, twisting, or wrenching of a joint. All joints are susceptible to sprains, but those of the ankle, wrist, finger, and knee are most commonly injured.

The symptoms of a sprain are swelling, tenderness, and pain, particularly during attempts to move the injured part. Often discoloration is caused by blood seeping from small blood vessels that have been ruptured. It is frequently difficult to distinguish a sprain from a fracture or dislocation, and when doubt exists as to the nature of the injury, X rays should be taken to confirm the diagnosis.

Sprained tissue should be immobilized and rested. The usual treatment for a sprain is to bandage the affected joint so that it is immobilized and the soft surrounding tissues have time to heal. The application of an ice bag or cold wet cloths immediately after the injury often helps to reduce pain and swelling. If the sprain is very severe, surgery may be needed to repair the joint.

Sprains typically take four to six weeks to heal, although the amount of time needed varies with the injury’s severity and location.

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