What are Sprains and Strains?

Sprains and strains are injuries to tissue typically attributed to overexertion or traumatic type injuries. The names differ due to the type of tissue involved in the injury.

A sprain is an injury involving a ligament. Ligaments are tough connective tissue bands that connect bone to bone. These tissues hold the joints together throughout the body. The most common, and the one people are most familiar with is an ankle sprain.

A strain is an injury involving the muscle or tendon. The muscle is the contractile portion responsible for creating motion. The tendon is the terminal fibrous component of the muscle, which attaches it to the bone. Most commonly and familiar is a strain of the low back.

There are different severities involved in sprains and strains and they range from mild irritation to complete tears of the involved structure. Mild forms typically respond well to conservative care, while some extreme versions may require other medical intervention.

The signs and symptoms are fairly similar to both injuries. There may be pain, swelling, and decreased range of motion. Sprains are more likely to bruise or the person may hear or feel a ‘pop’ when the injury occurs.

Several risk factors may contribute to sprains and strains:

  • Fatigue and Overuse. The muscles are tired and are less likely to function to their capacity.
  • Poor conditioning. Attempting to perform activities your body is not used to or conditioned to do.
  • Poor working conditions or ergonomic risk factors may place excessive stress on particular body parts. Slippery or uneven surfaces may be trip hazards.
  • Improper warm-up. Performing simple warm-up exercises that mimic the activity you will be performing warms the muscle by sending blood to the region and prepares it to take on the activity.

Prevention is always the best solution but often difficult to achieve. Some things to aid in prevention are:

  • Avoid and fix any surfaces that may be potential fall hazards.
  • Perform proper warm-ups prior to vigorous activity or work.
  • Ask for help when lifting and moving heavy items.
  • Take a break, ask for help or perform the activity or task when you are well rested.