How to Tell the Difference Between a Strain and a Sprain
Most people don't know what the difference is between a strain and a sprain. That may be the reason we hear the terms used interchangeably, or it may be because the end result is so similar: Soft tissue is torn or damaged, causing intense, prolonged pain, swelling and difficulty of movement. Learn how to distinguish between the two conditions in order to understand more about your injury and your anatomy.
Compare Your Symptoms to Strains
Know the definition of a strain. A strain occurs when a muscle or a tendon pulls or tears, creating inflammation and trauma in the damaged area. Strains often occur in the back and leg muscles.
Learn about muscle strain symptoms online or in a book such as "Stretching Anatomy" (see Resources below).
Compare your symptoms to common signs of a strain, such as sudden and persistent pain, which may progress to cramps or spasms. There may be mild swelling, as well.
Tell a doctor about your symptoms and their cause. A medical professional can tell if you have a strain, a sprain or a more complicated condition.
Compare Your Symptoms to Sprains
Know the definition of a sprain. Sprains happen when a ligament, which is the tissue that surrounds a joint, is torn or damaged. Ankles and wrists often sustain sprains.
Get more information about sprain symptoms online or in a first-aid book.
Compare your symptoms to those of sprains, such as acute localized pain that makes movement or bearing weight difficult. You'll probably see moderate swelling and redness or bruising, too.
Ask a doctor to confirm your diagnosis. What looks like a sprain may be a symptom of a larger condition.