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Is It A Strain Or A Sprain?

You often hear about people sustaining a “sprain” or a “strain” of their muscle/ligament/tendon. Do you know the difference?

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Sprains and Strains

These are both soft tissue injuries. A sprain occurs to ligaments that are stretched excessively, twisted or torn. A strain, on the other hand, happens when a muscle or a tendon is pulled, torn or overstretched. These can have quite similar presentations and symptoms.

Symptoms of Sprains and Strains

  • pain
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • reduced range of movement
  • a “pop” may be heard at the time of your injury

Sprains occur around joints, where ligaments attach 2 bones together. The anterior talo-fibular ligament (ATFL) is a good example of this. Following an ankle sprain, the ATFL is the most commonly injured ligament. People may often find it difficult to put weight through the foot.

Tearing of the hamstring muscles in sprinters or dancers is an example of a strain. This can result in muscle weakness and limited movement around the area.


An easy acronym to remember for soft tissue injuries is RICE.

R – rest

– ice

C – compression

E – elevate

It’s important to have relative rest to allow healing. Icing the injured area can help reduce swelling and pain. Make sure you elevate the affected limb to allow the movement of fluids away from the injured area.

There are different treatments for strains and sprains. Most importantly, ensure you are looking after the adjacent joints – you don’t want these to stiffen up over time if they are remain immobile.

Physiotherapists are experts at treating sprains and strains. Contact us today to give you a hand with safe return to your activity!

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