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Sprains and Strains

Sprains and Strains Facts

  • Sprains and strains are common orthopedic injuries. A sprain is an injury to a ligament, and a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon.
  • A sprain is usually caused by trauma to a joint. A strain is usually the result of overstretching or overuse of muscles and tendons.
  • People at higher risk for sprains and strains include athletes, people who have had sprains and strains before, and those who are overweight.
  • Signs and symptoms of sprains and strains include pain, swelling, bruising, and decreased range of motion.
  • The main treatment (first aid) for all sprains and strains is RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
  • Home remedies may include over-the-counter pain relievers. Physical therapy or massage may also be prescribed.
  • Most sprains and strains heal completely with adequate treatment, though you will be at higher risk of re-injuring the same area again.
  • Prevent sprains and strains by stretching and conditioning, wearing the proper shoes for sports, and maintaining a healthy weight.

What Are Sprains and Strains?

Sprains and strains are common orthopedic injuries. A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which is a band of tissue that connects one bone to another. A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, which is a band of tissue that connects muscle to bone. A strain is also sometimes referred to as a "torn muscle" or "muscle pull."

These injuries can occur in any body part but are most often found in the lower and upper extremities, such as the ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist. The most common sprain site is the ankle joint. More than 23,000 ankle sprains are estimated to occur daily in the United States. Ankle sprains can occur where the foot falls inward (inversion) or when the foot twists out (eversion). The most common muscle strain sites are the lumbar spine (lower back) and the hamstring muscle in the back of the thigh. Some sprains and strains may occur together during the same injury process.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Sprains and Strains:

Sprains and Strains - Symptoms and Signs

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Sprains and Strains - Treatment

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Sprains and Strains - Causes

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Shoulder muscle pain

Sprains and Strains Symptoms

Muscle Strain Symptoms and Signs

  • Swelling, bruising or redness, or open cuts as a consequence of the injury
  • Pain at rest
  • Pain when the specific muscle or the joint in relation to that muscle is used
  • Weakness of the muscle or tendons (A sprain, in contrast, is an injury to a joint and its ligaments.)
  • Inability to use the muscle at all

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Lumbosacral Spine Sprain/Strain Injuries »

Low back pain (LBP) is a well-known health concern in the United States.

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