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Sprains and Strains: What's the Difference?

By Sara Butler

Do you think that muscle sprains and muscle strains are the same? It's true that people tend to use the terms interchangeably, but they are two different injuries with a few things in common. They happen to also be the two most common musculoskeletal injuries, which is probably why they so often are confused. To help clear the air, here's what you should know about muscle sprains and strains so you can treat them appropriately.

Where They Happen

One of the biggest differences between a sprain and a strain is where they happen on the body. Sprains are tears or stretches in the ligaments, the structures that provide stability to the joints by connecting bones to bones. Sprains largely impact joints such as the wrist, fingers, knees, or ankles.

Strains tear or stretch tendons that attach muscles to bones. Muscles can also be torn or damaged in a strain as well at the juncture where tendons turn to muscle. Quite often, strains are found in the back, hamstrings, and shoulders.

Why They Happen

Just as the structures they impact, strains and sprains tend to be caused by different actions. Sprains are normally the result of falling the wrong way. This is because a sudden movement can force the joint into an unnatural position that then tears or stretches the ligament. Twisting your ankle is the perfect example of a sprain injury.

Strains often happen due to trauma, overexertion or repetitive movements. If you lift something improperly or something that is too heavy, perform repetitive movements at the gym or at work, or even start an exercise regimen too fast, you are at risk of a muscle strain.

What They Have in Common

While sprains and strains are quite different, they do have a few things in common, which is probably why they get confused so much. These include:

  • Symptoms - Both a strain and a sprain can cause swelling, pain, and a reduced range of motion at the point of injury. Pain can be very intense or moderate and can be treated with ice, elevation, and rest.
  • Chiropractic care can help - If you have a sprain or a strain, the chiropractor is a great resource to help you recover, targeting the joints that are injured and assisting your body to what it was made to, heal

Not sure if you have a sprain or a strain? Talk to the chiropractors at The Joint Chiropractic to help figure it out.

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

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