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The Difference between Sprains and Strains

By Sara Butler

Experienced chiropractors have seen their fair share of sprains and strains. One question they receive a lot is “what is the difference between a strain and a sprain?” In case you didn’t know, there’s a big difference. They’re two different conditions that often get mixed up, but understanding what they are and how your chiropractor can help treat them will make a big difference in your pursuit to keep your body healthy.

Strains and Sprains Impact Different Areas of the Body

The National Institutes of Health define a sprain as a tear or stretch of a ligament that provides joint stability. A strain, on the other hand, is a tear of the tendon or muscle. That is the biggest difference between these two conditions – one impacts muscles and tendons, while the other impacts ligaments!

Sprains (ligaments) normally impact:

  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Wrists
  • Fingers

 Strains (muscles and tendons) more often occur in:

  • Hands
  • Back
  • Shoulder
  • Hamstring

Strains and Sprains Have Different Causes

Twisting or falling the wrong way will typically cause a sprain. That’s because the movement forces the joint to move in a way it wasn’t designed to, resulting in a ligament that is stretched or torn. Falling down a flight of stairs, twisting your ankle, or catching yourself on an icy sidewalk are ways you can end up with a sprain.

But a strain is caused by trauma or overexertion, even from repetitive movements. When you lift something that is too heavy, perform a repetitive movement at work or during exercise, or you start an exercise routine that is too vigorous, then you can end up with a strain.

What They Have In Common

The reason so many people confuse sprains and strains is because they do have some similar traits, such as:

  • Common symptoms – Both injuries can cause pain and swelling, resulting in limited range of motion of the injured area. The pain can range from moderate to intense and both conditions can benefit from rest, elevation, and icing.
  • Can be treated by a chiropractor – The chiropractors at The Joint can help lessen the impact of a sprain and strain while also helping you to avoid future injuries to the same area. They promote healing and help you get back to normal functioning.

If you suspect a sprain or a strain, discuss it with your chiropractor! Now that you know how to spot the differences between the two, you'll know when to bring it to their attention!

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.

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