It Hurts. Did You Strain It or Sprain It?
Both strains and sprains hurt when you try to do normal activities like walking and bending—but they're actually injuries to different types of tissue in your body. Check with your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
Strains are muscle injuries.
Strains can feel like:
- Pain, stiffness and reduced function of the muscle.
- Strains usually heal in a few days.
Sprains Sprains are stretched or torn ligaments (connections between bones).
They're caused by an extreme bend or twist of a joint—often a knee or ankle.
Sprains can feel like:
- Immediate pain and possibly swelling.
- Painful to use normally.
Sprains require rest, and sometimes need to be immobilized, in order to heal. If the pain, swelling, or disability is severe, you should see your doctor
Treating Strains & Sprains
Treatment for both injuries is basically the same, though sprains may require longer rest, and possibly a doctor's attention.
- &quoat;R.I.C.E.&quoat; Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation will help your strain or sprain heal. You will want to rest the problem area for 1 to 2 days, or longer if it's a sprain. If possible, elevate the area to reduce swelling (propped up with pillows). Put some ice in a plastic bag (or use a bag of frozen vegetables which may be easier to wrap around an injury), wrap it in a thin towel, and apply it to the sore area for 20 minutes at a time. Later, you can wrap the sore area in an elastic bandage or tape it to give the muscle support. You should treat the area with ice for no more than 24 hours.
- Prompt ice treatment speeds healing of sprains and strains by 50%, allowing you to get back to normal activities sooner.
- After 2 days, begin simple range-of-motion exercises and apply heat to relieve pain.
- Use a pain reliever like TYLENOL® 8 Hour to ease the pain while your strain or sprain heals.
- Seek medical attention if the injury does not get better.