What is the difference between a sprain vs a strain injury?

Sprain versus strain, these two terms are often used interchangeably but are actually two different types of injuries. You may have also heard these injuries called "twisted" or "rolled", such as "I twisted/rolled my ankle." What do they all mean and what needs to be done to feel better?

A sprain is an injury to ligaments, the supporting structures of a joint. Ankles are the most common place to experience a sprain injury. Falling or twisting wrong often results in a sprain injury because the joint is forced into an abnormal position and the supporting ligaments around that joint get overstretched and torn. A twisted or rolled ankle are the same thing as a sprained ankle. 

A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. The low back and hamstring muscles (back of your leg) are the most common areas to experience a strain injury. This occurs with trauma, overexertion, and repetitive motions. When you lift a box that is too heavy, repeatedly twist or bend at work, begin a new exercise program that is too intense, or repeatedly throw a baseball or football, these can all result in small tears in the muscle. 

The general rule that patients have been told for years is "RICE" or Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. This is not bad advice but it also does not speed up the healing process. Initially after the injury you should do those steps, however more and more research has proven that some stress on the injured area can actually speed up healing. 

When we have a patient present with either a sprain or a strain injury, we assess the injury and will likely give a gentle adjustment to the joints affected by the injury but also to the associated spinal region to promote balance, eliminate overcompensation, and stimulate the nerves. Did you know that chiropractors are trained to adjust extremities (wrists, shoulders, knees, ankles, etc.)? Chiropractors are also highly trained in physiotherapy and when we feel the patient is ready we will educate them on proper stretches and exercises to strengthen the muscles and ligaments to avoid future re-injury. 


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