Categories: Blog
Categories: Blog



It’s difficult to tell the difference between a strain or sprain immediately.

Injuries can happen to anyone! Athletes, weekend hikers, casual walkers, parents, etc. If you’ve noticed a muscle or area of your body hurting, you may wonder how serious it is and if or when you need to visit a doctor.

How Do I Know If It’s a Sprain?

It’s difficult to tell the difference between a strain or sprain immediately. When the ligaments are stretched beyond what they are physically able to, a sprain will occur. These can range from minor to severe sprains.

Sprains often result from a particular incident or forced movement. For example, if you fall, twist, or have something hit you. If you have bruising and swelling from that incident and it’s hard to move the area, it may be a sprain.

How Do I Know If It’s a Strain?

Strains will appear in symptoms very similar to a sprain—you’ll feel pain in using the muscle or experience weakness.

However, if you can’t recall a specific incident that may have caused it recently, it may be more likely to be a strain. Strains typically result from overutilization or overstretching. This can occur over a more extended period of time, like overtraining or working the muscle harder than usual. It also can happen at a specific time when you stretch the muscle particularly far, straining it at that moment.

What Is the Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments. Ligaments are the strong fibrous bands attaching bones together. A sprain is caused by a specific event that stretches or tears the ligament.

A strain is an injury in the muscles and tendons. This can occur from an event (like a particularly long jump or a race where you run faster than usual) or from day-to-day activities, like exercise or other physical activities that may strain the muscles over time.

Often, strains and sprains feel very similar. If severe, both may cause extreme pain when you are moving the affected area.

What Should I Do If I Have a Strain or Sprain?

If you are experiencing considerable pain when you’re moving, you likely should visit a doctor. If the injury is severe, you may have torn a ligament or muscle, which can occasionally require surgery to fix.

If you don’t think the injury is severe, it’s still a good idea to get evaluated. In the meantime, you can use the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.

With severe injuries, you may need a cast or brace for protection while you are healing.

What Happens If I Don’t Get Treated?

If a sprain or strain isn’t appropriately treated, it can result in more damage to your body. There are multiple grades of sprains and strains that follow similar severity scales—both range from Grade I to III. For Grade I and II, the RICE method can help and sometimes heal your injury. However, Grade III sprains can increase the risk for continuous instability.

If your sprain is moderate to severe, the best idea is to go to a doctor to get a professional opinion.

Will Strains or Sprains Heal On Their Own?

Mild strains and sprains can heal independently and be managed at home. Moderate and severe injuries can feel better on their own with the RICE method but may not heal properly.

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