Sprains Vs Strains

Sprains and strains are injuries to the soft tissues of our musculoskeletal system and they are both very common. Soft tissues are the tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body, not being bone. Soft tissue includes:

  • tendons
  • ligaments
  • fascia
  • skin
  • fibrous tissues
  • fat
  • synovial membranes
  • muscles
  • nerves
  • blood vessels.

Muscle and tendons are made from bundles of fibres and contain specialised cells that monitor the degree of contraction and stretch. With general use, muscles and tendons use soft contractions to resist overstretching. However, sudden twists or jolts can apply greater force than the tissue can tolerate.

The fibres can be overstretched and tear leading to bleeding from broken blood vessels which results in swelling.

Is a sprain the same as a strain?

No. Although they are often used interchangeably, a sprain is definitely not the same thing as a strain. Sprains affect the joints, whereas strains affect the muscles. Both can cause pain and difficulty moving.

Here is how you can tell sprains and strains apart.

What are sprains?            

A sprain is a joint injury that typically involves overstretching. This causes small tears in the ligaments (tissue that connects bones at a joint) and joint capsule (a membrane that surrounds joints).

Sprains commonly occur after a fall, twisting in an odd way or getting hit. Sprains are common in the thumb, ankle and wrists.

You’ll know that you have a sprain because you’ll be experiencing:

  • Pain in the joint
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Being unable to move the joint

What are strains?

A strain is a stretched or torn muscle/ tendon (tissues that connect the muscles to the bones).Strains can happen suddenly or develop over a period of time.

Strains are a common injury that occurs as a result of playing sports. It is common to have sprains occurring in the:

  • Back
  • Calf
  • Groin
  • Hamstring

You’ll know you have a strain when you experience:

  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Swelling
  • Trouble moving the muscle.

Both sprains and strains can come on suddenly, or may get worse gradually. Sudden injuries are related to specific incidents. These are often called an acute soft tissue injury.

An injury that gets worse over time is often called a chronic soft tissue injury. These are commonly caused by continued overuse or increases in normal tissue stress.

How long do soft tissue injuries take to heal.

The amount of time that the soft tissue injury will take to heal will depend entirely on the individual, and the nature of their sprain or strain. In general, it will usually take between two to twelve weeks for the injury to heal. This will depend on:

  • The individual
  • The treatment that they have received initially (e.g. remedial massage, chiropractic care, myotherapy)
  • Their ongoing care
  • Their age
  • Injury history
  • Their general health

If you believe that you have sprained a joint or strained a muscle, then it is important to see an appropriate health care practitioner (such as a chiropractor or myotherapist). This will help to determine an appropriate management pan for fast and effective healing.

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