It’s easy to mistake strains and sprains as different words for the same injury, but in fact, they are injuries to entirely different parts of the body.
By Brian Beise
Full PDF here.
What’s the difference?
A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon (tissue that attaches muscle to bone), while a sprain is an overload and/or tear to a ligament (tissue that connects the end of one bone to another).
Where are they most common?
The most common sprains and strains occur in ankles, wrists, knees, and fingers, but they also can occur in the elbow, shoulder, back, and neck.
How do I treat them?
The best treatment for these injuries is P.R.I.C.E. (see “Sports Injuries Overview”). While severe sprains and strains may require surgery, most will just require a doctor or trainer to establish and monitor a rehabilitation program.
How can I prevent one from recurring?
Physical therapy and off-season training can help strengthen your joints, preventing the recurrence of sprains and strains. As always, wearing proper sports gear—like braces and/or pads—can protect you from injury as well.