Sprains and Strains - What's the Difference?

In my years as an athletic trainer I’ve heard the terms sprain and strain used interchangeably to describe an injury. While the two seem similar, or even the same, they actually mean two entirely different things!

A sprain is damage to a ligament that connects bone to bone. These areas make up what we call joints. You have joints throughout multiple areas of your body. Some of the most common areas we see sprains are in the ankle and knee joints.

A strain involves damage to a muscle or tendon. Tendons connect muscle to bone. Hamstrings and quadricep muscles are both common areas in which strains occur. You’ll often hear someone describe the strain that has occurred by saying they’ve “pulled a muscle.”

Both sprains and strains may have varying degrees of severity and each injury is graded on a scale of 1-3, with 1 being the least severe, with the fastest recovery, and 3 being the most several, likely with several months of recovery.

Depending on the injury, proper rest, stretching and exercise can aid in the recovery of a sprain or strain. Our team at Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy can assist you in mapping out an appropriate recovery plan. Come see us at any one of our 18 locations across Grand Rapids for a complimentary consultation!

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Tyrell Tolliver, ATC