It is a common misconception that “sprains” and “strains” are interchangeable terms. In reality, there are some key differences between the two. In order to understand how they differ, it is important to first understand what ligaments and tendons are.
Ligaments connect bones to bones within a joint, while tendons connect bones to muscles. When you experience a sprain, you are tearing or overstretching a ligament. Conversely, when you experience a strain, you are tearing or overstretching a tendon.
If you have recently sustained a sprain or strain, or you believe you may have, don’t hesitate to contact Optimal Physical Therapy to consult with a physical therapist. We’ll determine the best course of treatment for your needs and get you started on the road to recovery!
Treating sprains and strains:
Mild sprains and strains are often treated with the RICE technique: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. However, when the RICE technique doesn’t work, or if pain is unbearable and/or constant, it is in your best interest to visit a doctor. A doctor may take an X-ray to see if there are any breaks in the bone. If there are no breaks found, the diagnosis is usually a strain or sprain.
Physical therapy is an effective method for treating sprains and strains. No matter how you incurred your injury, our dedicated physical therapists can play a major role in your comeback. One of our licensed physical therapists will use a mix of passive and active treatments to reduce pain, improve strength, and increase coordination. Passive treatments may include massage, ice and heat therapies, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound. Active treatments include targeted stretches and exercises.
A very common type of ligament sprain is an ACL tear, which physical therapy has been proven successful in treating. It has also been proven successful in treating various other types of tears, such as those to the Achilles tendon or hamstring.
Common causes of sprains and strains:
The symptoms of a sprain and strain are much alike, due to the fact that the injuries are very similar in nature. You may experience swelling, muscle spasm, difficulty with range of motion, limited flexibility, or pain around the affected joint. However, there is one main difference in symptoms: with a sprain, you will usually present bruising around the affected joint, whereas this is not always the case with a sprain. Some of the most common causes of sustaining a sprain or strain include:
- Prolonged repetitive motion.
- Overexerting yourself.
- Lifting heavy objects.
- Slipping and falling.
- Athletic activities.
There are also certain risk factors that may increase your chances of sustaining a sprain or strain, such as neglecting to warm up before exercising, using improper equipment, practicing improper techniques, being out of shape, or general fatigue.
Find relief for your sprain or strain today!
WebMD states, “Ankle injuries can happen to anyone at any age. However, men between 15 and 24 years old have higher rates of ankle sprain, compared to women older than age 30 who have higher rates than men. Half of all ankle sprains occur during an athletic activity. Every day in the U.S., 25,000 people sprain their ankle. And more than 1 million people visit emergency rooms each year because of ankle injuries. The most common ankle injuries are sprains and fractures, which involve ligaments and bones in the ankle. But you can also tear or strain a tendon.”
Is your sprain or strain limiting your daily life? Find relief with us by contacting our Arlington, VA office. Our licensed physical therapists will conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine what the best course of treatment will be for you. Say goodbye to your pain today with physical therapy!