Sprains vs Strains – Which One Do You Have?

October 10th, 2019

We’ve all been in this scenario: you’re walking down the sidewalk, when suddenly – your ankle slips off the curb. You feel an immediate twinge of pain, but you’re unsure whether or not it requires a trip to the doctor.

It is true that many mild injuries can be treated with the R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method; however, some injuries require the help of a medical professional.

It can be difficult to determine where your injury falls. It can also be difficult to determine if the injury you sustained is a strain or a sprain. Fortunately, consulting with a physical therapist can help you get everything sorted out as quickly as possible, so you can recover and get back to your daily life!

What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain?

That’s one of the most common questions people ask when they hurt a part of their body: is it a sprain or strain? While they may seem similar, the distinctions are actually easier to make than you may think. In order to know the differences between a sprain and a strain, you must first know the differences between a tendon and a ligament.

Tendons are strong, fibrous tissues that connect bone to muscle. Ligaments are similar connective tissues to tendons, although instead of connecting bone to muscle, they connect bone to bone.

A strain occurs when the tendons attaching your muscle to bone are stretched too far or torn. A strain can be acute, meaning that it happens as an immediate response to an injury, or chronic, meaning that it has developed over time due to performing the same repetitive motions over and over.

A sprain occurs when the ligaments connecting your joints are damaged. This can affect your ankles, knees, elbows, or wrists. With a sprain, the joint is so violently twisted that the tissues are stretched or torn. The pain may be mild, subsiding in a few minutes or hours, or it can be more severe, requiring physical therapy or even surgery.

How can physical therapy help a sprain or strain?

Our physical therapists are highly experienced in both diagnosing and treating sprains and strains. Your physical therapist will help you recover from your injury and provide you with tips for avoiding additional injuries in the future. In many cases, physical therapy treatments can even make the need for harmful drugs or invasive surgical corrections obsolete.

When treating a sprain or strain with physical therapy, 3 steps are typically followed.

  1. Your physical therapist will focus on pain relief. This is done with passive physical therapy methods, including manual therapy, ice and heat therapies, light stretches, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation.
  2. Once your pain is managed, your physical therapist will focus on promoting the healing process of your injury. This will include strengthening and range of motion exercises, in order to help regain optimal function of the affected area.
  3. After your injury is healed, your physical therapist will focus on preventing injury from occurring in the affected area again in the future. This will be done with targeted strengthening exercises, in order to build muscle around the affected area and reduce your risk of injuring it again in the future.

Have you recently sustained a sprain or strain? Do you think you may have a sprain or strain? If so, contact us today for assistance. We’ll provide you with the best treatment methods for your needs, so you can relieve your pain and get back to your normal activities!

Contact Physical Therapy Services, LLC in Oklahoma City, OK, to schedule an appointment today.