At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between sprains and strains. In fact, people often use the terms interchangeably. That’s because sprains and strains share similar symptoms, to include swelling, pain and reduced flexibility and range of motion. So, how can you tell the difference between a sprain and a strain if one happens to you? Here’s some guidelines regarding the differences between sprains and strains.
Sprains occur when a ligament – the tissue that connects to bones in a joint – is overstretched or torn, which is why most sprains affect the ankle joint. With sprains, you can expect bruising around the affected joint and pain and weakness to the injured area.
Strains, on the other hand, occur when muscles or tendons – the fibrous cords of tissue that connect your bones to muscles – become overstretched or torn. Strains are very common in the lower back and hamstring, and bring with them pain and often spasms, as well as redness, bruising and limited motion.
Both injuries can be caused by an event, such as an accident or sports injury. There is, however, chronic muscle strain, which is the result of stressing the same muscle by performing the same movement repeatedly and over time. Strains are also more attributed to the lack of stretching or performing a task that is too strenuous for you.
Are Sprains and Strains Treated Differently?
Initial protocol to treat both injuries is the same: RICE, or Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
- Rest – Avoid further stressing the injury by resting the injured area.
- Ice – Apply a cold compress to the area for 15-20 minutes over the course of the day.
- Compression – Apply an ace bandage or wrap the area to reduce swelling and limit mobility that could cause further damage.
- Elevation – If possible, elevate the injured body part above the heart to limit and prevent swelling. If the sprain or sprain is in the wrist, elevate with a sling.
Full recovery depends on the severity of the injury. While both sprains and strains can recover using these the RICE method, severe sprains or strains may need advanced medical care that may necessitate surgical procedure to recover fully.
When Urgent Care is Merited
Strains and sprains fall under non-life-threatening but can often be considered urgent care conditions. You may want to consider making an appointment with your orthopedist or visit an urgent care facility if the pain is severe or intolerable. If you feel numbness or a tingling sensation the injury could be more serious than previously considered. You should also see your doctor if your symptoms worsen despite regular treatment.
Urgent Care for Strains and Sprains in Texas
Even a small strain or sprain can slow you down and prevent you from doing what you want to do. That’s where urgent care comes in handy. Open 365 days a year, EMC Express Care provides expert, non-emergency medical care to patients in and around the greater Dallas area. Whether you have a strain or strain, need a physical or an immunization, our expert providers are here to help you with any number of medical conditions – plus we perform diagnostics to include ultrasounds and lab work. Our wait times are low and we do not require appointments. You may also call us ahead at (817) 503-8800 or check-in online.