Sprains vs. Strains: What’s the Difference?

Animated image of injured ankle


Most people use the terms “sprains” and “strains” interchangeably to the point where they believe they’re one and the same.

So first off, let’s get this out of the way: sprains and strains are actually two very different things. The question is, what makes them so different in the first place?

To find out, let’s have a look at sprains vs strains, how they occur, and what you can do when you have them.

So, What’s the Difference Between Sprains vs Strains?

Sprains and strains both happen at the joint, which is why most people just lump the two terms together. However, it’s not where they happen, but what is affected on the body when they occur.

A strain happens when you overstretch or tear your muscles or tendons. Muscles, of course, are the things we use to move, push, pull, and lift things. Tendons are tissue cords that connect the bones to muscles. Both are pretty important.

A sprain, however, happens when you overstretch or tear your ligaments. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect two bones at a joint, so it’s pretty obvious that you need these to be in working condition.

Some people may argue that tearing a ligament is worse than messing up a muscle or tendon, but in any case, ligaments do tend to take longer to heal on average.

What Causes Them?

A number of things can cause a sprain or a strain, but both are almost always caused by physical activities.

You’ll most often hear about them occurring in sports, from overexertion of exercise, or from trying to lift heavy objects, but they can also occur from an accident or from sitting or standing for too long in an awkward position.

How Can I Prevent Them?

Ironically enough, the best way to prevent physical harm primarily caused by exercise is to…well, exercise.

Working out in a safe and effective manner will make your muscles, tendons, and ligaments stronger and more flexible, which would decrease the chances of you getting hurt in the first place.

It also pays to keep an eye out for your environment. If you’re around an area covered in ice, for example, it would be in your best interest to not run across it just to see how far you’ll slide.

Trust us, you’ll be thankful we warned you.

The Place for All Your Medical Needs

Now that you know all about the difference between sprains vs strains, you’ll be much more prepared to deal with both of them. However, there may come a time when you’ll need the help of the experts to get you back on your feet.

When that happens, you can be sure to rely on us.

At State Urgent Care, handling your medical needs is our business. We help treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including burns, cuts, bladder infections, splinters, sprains & strains, and a whole lot more.

Have a question you’d like for us to know about? Feel free to give us a call. We’d be more than happy to handle any concerns you may have.