Strain or sprain?

Do you get confused between the difference or struggle to define the differences between a strain and a sprain? If the answer is ‘yes’, don’t worry, you are not alone.

The reason it can be hard to define the difference is because the symptoms that are described, for the most part, are very similar For example:

Symptoms of a strain: Symptoms of a sprain:

Pain with affected joint
Limited flexibility
Difficulty with ROM

Muscle spasm:
Pain with affected joint
Limited flexibility
Difficulty with ROM

(ROM – Range of motion)

As you can see from the table above, the only real difference with the symptoms is that a strain may have bruising and a sprain will not. This can be confusing at times as the two injuries can occur together.

A strain is caused by the tearing of a muscle or tendon. Whereas a sprain is caused by the stretching of the tough fibrous bands of tissue the hold joints together.


Rest: Stay off the affected joint, or try not to use it while it heals. This will give the joint time to heal.

Ice: Ice helps reduce swelling and inflammation. Never apply ice directly to your skin. Instead, wrap a thin towel or piece of clothing around a bag of ice. Leave it on the affected area for 10 minutes, then remove the ice for 20 minutes. Repeat as much as you can for the first 24 to 48 hours.

Compression: Compression will help reduce the swelling. Wrap the affected joint in a bandage. Do not wrap too tightly, however, or you can reduce the blood supply.

Elevation: Try to keep the affected joint elevated above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling. If your knee or ankle is affected, that may mean you need to stay in bed or on the couch for up to two days after your injury. If you can’t keep it as high as your heart, parallel to the ground is also OK.

If your symptoms persist then it may be time to seek advice from a physical therapist, such as an osteopath.

For more information or to arrange an appointment we can be contacted on:

Tel: 01536 216223
email: [email protected]

Appointments available in Kettering and Corby 7 days a week, by prior arrangement.

Strain or sprain? Taylor Osteopathy