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 firstname.lastname@example.org or book your next appointment here.