Sprain or Strain?

The two words are thrown around fairly often, but what do they actually mean? Both are common injuries of soft tissue, and the type of soft tissue dictates the injury.

Strains are for muscles

A strain is typically the stretching or tearing of muscle fibres, usually due to the muscle being overstretched in one single movement, or tiny tears becoming worse over time due to lack of rest and recovery. Either way, they are painful and no matter what grade the tear is considered to be, you’ll know it’s there! A strain can take anywhere from 1 week through to 8 weeks to heal depending on the severity, this is because of the excellent blood flow and therefore high nutrient delivery.

Sprains are for ligaments

Ahh those wonderful, thick, fibrous connective tissues that keep your bones moving and your skeleton together in one piece. A sprain indicates there could be excessive stretching or a tear (whether small or large) affecting the ligament(s) of the area. This is usually associated by a joint moving too much, or totally out of its usual range – for example an ankle rolling, or a dislocated shoulder. A sprain can take anywhere from 4 weeks to heal, and this is due to the low amount of blood (and therefore nutrients) ligaments get.

How will I know if it is a sprain or a strain?

The key to understanding the injury stems from two questions –

1. Where is the pain, swelling and redness?

2. What happened to make it feel that way?

Usually pain at a joint or around a joint indicates a sprain, while pain, swelling and inflammation across the bone on softer areas may indicate a strain. The most important thing you can do is use R.I.C.E.R (check our previous blogs on this for more tips for more tips) and seek advice from your physiotherapist.

How can I prevent both strains and sprains?

There is plenty of research associated with preventing these types of injuries, here are just a few pointers that you can put in action today:

  • Warming up allows the muscles to be pumped with blood and read to move
  • Cooling down allows blood to carry away nasty acids and begin healing any tiny tears
  • Stretching encourages joint mobility and flexibility, useful for sport and recovery
  • Protective equipment like strapping tape can help minimise joint movement
  • Proper shoes that suit your gait, activity and body
  • Slow progression and increasing your training steadily allows your body to adapt

Trust Progressive Sports and Spinal Physiotherapy to work with you, and for you, to get you back on your feet when it counts the most. We take a holistic approach, and work alongside you every step of the way to make your injury rehabilitation as hassle-free as possible. Contact the practice for an assessment today on (02) 4721 7798, email info@progressiverehab.com.au or book your next appointment here.

Suzanne graduated from Western Sydney University with a Bachelor of Health Science (Sports and Exercise Science) in 2015. She then went on to continue her studies at Macquarie University graduating from the Doctor of Physiotherapy post-graduate degree in June 2019.

Since graduating, Suzanne has worked in the local Penrith area in both private practice and Sports Physiotherapy. Suzanne has worked with sporting teams including Penrith District Netball Association, Mt Druitt Rangers (NPL), Penrith Valley Figure Skating Club, and local dance and cheer schools. 

Suzanne has a particular interest in working with artistic athletes including cheerleaders and dancers. She has a professional background in both cheer and dance and has previously worked as both a cheer coach and dance teacher. Suzanne’s previous experiences are an invaluable resource to her as a physiotherapist, as she has a thorough understanding of the level of physical fitness and skill acquisition that these athletes must have in order to be successful on stage and in competition.

Suzanne’s other areas of clinical interest reside in lower limb musculoskeletal injuries, spinal pathologies and women’s health.

Nathanial graduated as a physiotherapist in 2012 which saw him work in private practice and hospital settings gaining experience in all areas of physiotherapy including hand therapy, splinting/casting, pre/post-operative care, Men’s Health and general musculoskeletal, occupational and sports physiotherapy. Since then he has gone on to complete further studies in physiotherapy enabling him to be the only dual titled Musculoskeletal, Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist in Penrith.

Nathanial has a strong background in sports physiotherapy achieving accreditation with NSWIS as a service provider and working with many elite sports teams.

Nathanial has a particular interest in working with elite athletes, complex cases and in particular assessment and management of knee, hip and shoulder pain.

Andrea graduated from the Australian Catholic University completing her Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science in 2018 and Master’s of Clinical Exercise Physiology in 2020. After graduating she attained accreditation with ESSA as an Exercise Physiologist.

During her studies she gained clinical experience in both hospital and private practice settings, working in the cardiac rehabilitation program, heart failure service and mental health unit at Nepean Hospital. And at the ACU Exercise and Lifestyle Clinic working with clients with neurological conditions, cancer and chronic musculoskeletal injuries.

Since graduating, Andrea enjoys working with a variety of clients. She has a particular interest in treating musculoskeletal injuries and neurological conditions, striving to help people increase their functional capacity to get them back to work, sport or the things they love doing.