While the terms sprain and strain are often used interchangeably, there is a key difference between the two. A sprain is the tearing or overstretching of ligaments. And ligaments are the rows of tissue that connect bones in a joint. The most common location for a sprain happens to be the ankle joint. A sprain to the ankle joint often causes ankle pain. Specifically, a strain is the tearing or overstretching of a tendon or muscle. It’s the tendons that connect bones to the muscles. The most common location for a strain is the lower back and hamstring. To learn more about sprains and strains, give our office a call.
The Similarities of a Sprain and a Strain and Causes
The symptoms of a sprain and strain are much alike. That’s due to the fact that the injuries are very similar. You may experience swelling, muscle spasm, difficulty with range of motion, limited flexibility and pain around the affected joint. The main difference between the two is that a sprain will usually present with bruising around the affected joint.
The cause of a strain or sprain may be due to:
- Athletic activities
- Slipping and falling
- Prolonged repetitive motion
- Lifting heavy objects
- Overexerting yourself
The risk factors for a strain or sprain include not warming up before a physical activity, being tired, using improper equipment and being out of shape. Plus, there are environmental risk factors, such as slippery or icy surfaces.
Treatment for Strains and Sprains
Mild sprains and strains are often treated with the RICE technique: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. However, when the RICE technique doesn’t work, it’s time to see a doctor. A doctor may take an X-ray to see if there are any breaks to the bone. If that’s ruled out, the diagnosis is usually a strain or sprain. Your doctor may even recommend a physical therapist. No matter how you incurred the strain or sprain, physical therapy can play a major role in your comeback. A physical therapist will use a mix of different techniques to reduce pain, including ankle pain, improve strength and ramp up coordination. Active treatment includes stretching and exercises. Passive treatments include ultrasound, electrical stimulation, heat therapy and massage. Electrical stimulation and heat therapy are very effective for reducing ankle pain.
Physical therapy has been proven to be effective for ligament sprains like an ACL tear. An ACL tear is a very common knee injury. Physical therapy has also been shown to be effective for an injury to the Achilles tendon and other types of sprains and strains.
The Stats on Ankle Injuries
According to WebMD, “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.”
If you’re suffering from ankle pain or a strain or sprain, be sure to call our office to learn how we can get you on the road to recovery. Our experienced and certified physical therapists will do a comprehensive assessment of your condition and create an individualized treatment program. Live a pain-free life with physical therapy.