Symptoms and Signs of What Is the Difference Between Sprains and Strains?

Doctor's Notes on What Is the Difference Between Sprains and Strains?

A sprain is an injury to the ligament (tissue that connects bone to bone) while a strain is an injury to muscle or tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). Signs and symptoms of sprains include pain, swelling, bruising, instability of the joint and decreased range of motion of the joint. Signs and symptoms strains include pain, inflammation, muscle spasm, muscle cramping, muscle weakness and bruising may occur. Both injuries can be acute or chronic.

Sprains and strains share occur. Both can be the result of sudden twisting motion or trauma that results in overstretching ligaments, muscles and/or tendons. Chronic sprains and strains occur with overuse of ligaments, muscles and/or tendons. For example, athletes who train constantly and do not allow the body time to heal.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.