Many people use the terms “sprains” and “strains” to refer to the same type of injuries. Despite their similarities, they are distinct injuries that can present with different symptoms and outcomes. Knowing the difference between the two can affect the urgency with which you seek care. In fact, they are two very different injuries that require similar care. Here’s why.
Sprains vs. Strains
Sprains are the result of a ligament – the tissue that connects to bones in a joint – becoming overstretched or torn; this is perhaps one reason why sprains quite commonly occur in the ankle joint. With sprains, bruising is more likely to occur than with strains; that’s because the exaggerated twisting or bending motions have ruptured nearby blood vessels. Sprains also cause pain and weakness in the injured area.
Meanwhile, strains occur when a muscle or tendon – the fibrous cords of tissue that connect your bones to muscles – are overstretched or torn. Strains most commonly occur in the lower back or hamstring muscle located in the back of the thigh. With strains, expect to feel spasms or an inability to move the affected area. These involuntary contractions occur due to the direct involvement of the muscle tissue in the injury and may serve as a protective mechanism that limits any further movement that can interfere with the healing process.
Treating Sprains and Strains
When it comes to treating sprains and sprains, recovery depends on the severity and location of the injury. Both injuries can take weeks and sometimes months to completely heal. However, strains are more likely to heal faster than sprains, especially if the affected tissue is muscle. Mild sprains and strains often fare well with the RICE method which involves:
- Resting the affected area while it heals,
- Icing the area to reduce swelling and inflammation,
- Compressing the area by wrapping it with a brace or tape to help reduce swelling and to maintain stability, and
- Elevating the affected area to reduce inflammation.
With a mild sprain or strain, expect to resume limited activities within a matter of days. A moderate injury, however, may take a week or longer to heal. A more severe injury may require surgery to repair a damaged or torn ligament, tendon or muscle which, of course, would mean a longer recovery period and possibly some physical therapy until you regain strength and range of motion in the joint.
Getting Urgent Care in Texas
Sprains and strains share many symptoms. By now, you know that sprains occur to ligaments, while strains occur to muscles and tendons. You know the symptoms that can help differentiate the two, and you understand their differences in recovery times. But one thing you may not know is how to ensure you have the proper diagnosis and that you are on the right road to recovery. At EMC Express Care, we offer the most advanced urgent care services to patients of all ages. Whether you have experienced a sprain or strain – or any other urgent care emergency – we will see you, typically within 10 minutes. That means you get the care you need when you need it. Plus, we offer wellness and sports physicals, vaccinations and immunizations, and treatment of injuries and injuries. If you are in need urgent care for you or your child or if it’s been a while since you have had a physical, call us today at (817) 503-8800. We’re open 365 days a year, with convenient locations in Keller, Colleyville, Southlake, North Richland Hills, Ft. Worth, Euless, and Westlake. Be sure to check in with us check-in online to let us know you’re on your way.