Sprains and Strains Are Very Different Injuries

Any athlete, participant in any form of exercise, or even dancers and workers know that sprains and strains are common.

There’s a big difference between the two, however, even though colloquially the two terms are used interchangeably.

Defining a Sprain

A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament or a combination of a stretch and tear of a ligament. One or more ligaments can be injured at the same time.

A sprain most commonly occurs in the ankle and can be caused by direct or indirect trauma such as a fall or blow to the body that knocks a joint out of position or causes it to overstretch. A common incidence is when an individual lands on an outstretched arm, slides into a base, jumps up and lands on the side of a foot or runs on an uneven surface.

The severity of the injury is dependent upon the extent of the injury — whether it’s a partial or complete tear — and the number of ligaments involved.

Defining a Strain

A strain is an injury to either a muscle or tendon — fibrous cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone. A strain can be a simple overstretch of the muscle or tendon or it can be a partial or complete tear.

Strains can occur frequently in the lower back and in the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh. During intensive training, inadequate rest breaks often precipitate a strain.

These injuries are very common and can be serious. For example, high ankle sprains that occur to ligaments just above the ankle are less common than traditional ankle sprains but can take much longer to heal.

Treating the Injuries

Treatment typically involves rest, ice, compression and elevation to minimize the damage and reduce swelling. Severe sprains may require surgery or immobilization that precedes months of therapy.

Most ligaments heal after six weeks, according to the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society. One good indication that you are ready to resume activity is if you can hop on the injured foot 15 times.

At Tidewater Physical Therapy, a treatment program for strains or sprains will improve mobility and motion, reduce pain without medication, and in many cases, help patients avoid surgery. Physical therapists are experts in how the body moves and will collaborate with you and your physician to help achieve your long-term health goals and quality of life.

Finding a Physical Therapist

Many of the physical therapists at Tidewater Physical Therapy Inc. hold Direct Access Certification through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy allowing them to evaluate and treat patients without a prescription. As part of your healthcare team, a physical therapist will make an assessment of your condition and create a plan to start you on the road to wellness. Our team will communicate with your physician of record and obtain a referral, if necessary, for your continued treatment. We will also work with your insurance carrier to make sure services are covered by your plan. To make your own appointment, find a clinic near you.