Strain and Sprain: Know the Difference and The Treatment


Strain and sprain are two completely different medical conditions. A strain is a tear or a stretch in a muscle or a tendon which connects to the bones; however, a sprain is a stretch or tear in the ligaments, which connect bone to bone at the joints. 

Strain and Sprain

How to Identify Strain and Sprain?


Sprains are classified into grades.

  1. Grade 1– the ligament tear is minimal with less stability at the joint.
  2. Grade 2– the tear is little impactful and joint becomes loose.
  3. Grade 3– Completely torn ligament. The bone is not broken still the connection to the joint becomes very unstable.

 Mild sprains can be treated by resting the ligament. But if one is unable to bear weight on the injured body part or experiences numbness around the area, they should consult a doctor and get the diagnosis done quickly.


Doctors classify strains into the following grades.

  1. Grade 1– mild strain includes very little muscle fiber being torn. The muscle strength at the core is still intact and pain subsides slowly.
  2. Grade 2– moderate strain is the condition when more muscle fiber is torn and this results in tenderness and swelling around the damaged area. The muscle strength is less than normal and a bruise can be an aftereffect of the strain.
  3. Grade 3– severe strain that includes complete tear from its tendon. 

What are the Treatment Options?

Treating a strain or a sprain should begin from the doctor’s diagnosis. It is a good practice to consult with a doctor within 48 hours and identify the grade of strain or sprain. The most effective treatment for strain and sprain is the RICE therapy. This is advised by the doctor in case of grade 1 or grade 2 conditions. For grade 3, one has to consult an orthopedic first. The RICE procedure includes the following:

R Rest the injured area completely with no weight-bearing.
    1. The ice pack should be administered on the injured region for 10 minutes continuously. 
    2. After the 10 minutes, one has to remove the pack and rest for 30 minutes and then the cycle can continue. 
    3. One has to be careful not to put ice on the injured area directly as it can constrict the blood vessels and slow the healing process.
C Compression helps to keep the swelling moderate. Elastic bands, sleeves, etc. are available that can be used to keep the injured area compressed and in its position.
E Elevation is the process of keeping the injured body part at a higher level above the heart so that the fluid drainage is effective and swelling reduces quickly.

A sprain and strain heal over time. One can resume their regular activities after three to four days of complete rest. A strain can be avoided by warming up with mild exercises so that the muscles can expand and contract in a proper pace. A sprain can be avoided by being extra careful and not applying force. If one is experiencing persistent pain, they must consult the doctor.


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