What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?

Sprain vs. Strain: What's the Difference?

Sprains and strains are extremely common sports injuries, accounting for 4.5 million doctor visits a year. Over one-third of those are active adults between the ages of 25-44, and men have a 30% greater chance than women of experiencing a sprain or strain. So what is the difference? A sprain:

  • Affects ligaments, which are the fibrous tissues that attach one bone to another, and can result in instability of the joint involved
  • Occurs when a joint is moved beyond its normal range of motion or forced into an unnatural position
  • Ranges in degrees, classified based on what percentage of the ligamentous fibers are involved
  • Means that some or all of the fibers are overstretched or possibly torn
  • Frequently involves the ankle, knee or fingers
A strain:

  • Affects muscles or tendons, the ropy ends of the muscles that attach the muscle to the bone it moves
  • Ranges in severity, from general soreness or stiffness to an actual disruption of the integrity of the muscle
  • Is classified depending on how many and how extensively the muscle fibers are torn
  • Can occur when a muscle is made to work extra hard to overcome an unusual amount of resistance
  • May affect any muscle in the body at any time, but will usually occur in the one most involved in the activity you're doing
Most sprains and strains resolve easily, perhaps with a little treatment. But if the injury is more severe, or your sports-related goals run the risk of being compromised, work with a qualified trainer or physical therapist to reach an optimal level of function.

Pain Relief Frequently Asked Questions

What is an aneurysm?

What is Abdominal Rigidity?

What distinguishes appendicitis from other abdominal pains?

What is Arm Paresthesia?

Which type of arm pain is accompanied by an inability to reach backwards?

What condition causes arthritis pain of the wrist?

What may be a cause of unexplained back pain?

What is Scoliosis?

What are the symptoms of disc injury?

Can weather affect my health condition?

Does gender affect pain?

Is psychological pain real?

What can cause feet pain in children?

What may be causing anal pain and bleeding during pregnancy?

What may cause symptoms of pain and itching in the buttocks?

What may cause acute or severe joint pain?

Is my arthritis a result of wear-and-tear?

What may be an underlying cause of muscle pain?

How will my shoulder injury affect my neck?

Is Whiplash Serious?

Is my posture important?

What is shingles?

What are the complications of shingles?

What happens if shingles is not treated?

What may cause a bulge in the groin?

What is a Hydrocoele?

What is testicular torsion?

Can I train too much?

What may cause shin pain after running?

What are the effects of a concussion?

What does "abdominal pain" refer to and what could be the cause?

What signs and symptoms should I look for to indicate I need to seek medical attention for my abdominal pain?

What does it mean if I have numbness or tingling in my hands or arms?

What can referred pain to the arm and shoulder be a sign of?

What causes a rotator cuff tear?

What is arthritis?

How does one manage or treat arthritis?

Do supplements and herbs advertised as helping prevent and treat arthritis symptoms really work?

What are the statistics related to arthritis?

What can cause back pain?

How does upper back pain develop?

How can I deal with chronic back pain?

What is chronic pain?

What is the truth about low back pain?

Does heavy lifting cause back pain?

What are some pain medication myths?

Where can I turn for information on pain?

What is gout?

What is plantar fasciitis?

What are orthotics?

Are flip flops bad for you?

What are some conditions of the toes that can cause pain and disability?

What are hemorrhoids?

How does pressure in the abdominal and digestive system affect hemorrhoids?

What causes hemorrhoids?

What are the treatment options for hemorrhoids?

Is it normal to be stiff and achy after a hard workout?

What is fibromyalgia?

How can I manage my fibromyalgia?

What are the causes of neck pain?

What are the symptoms of neck pain to be aware of?

What are my options for pain that won't go away?

What are some of the causes of groin pain that are specific to men?

What are the causes of groin or genital pain in women?

What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?

How do I treat a sports injury?

What are the types of knee injuries that occur in sports?

What is neuralgia?

Who is at risk for getting shingles?

What can be the lasting side effect of shingles?

Not finding the advice and tips you need on this Pain Relief Tip Site? Request a Tip Now!

Guru Spotlight
Ray Lokar