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What is the difference between a Sprain and Strain?

We sprain ligaments and we strain muscles. Both are essentially soft tissue injuries, they will cause bleeding and swelling to occur and a resultant loss of function. 

The most common sprains are of the ankle and knee, your wrist and your back or neck. 

The most common strains we have are of the long muscles, so calf, hamstring, quadriceps and then the wrist flexor or extensor muscles at the elbow causing tennis or golfer’s elbow. Most sprains occur where the muscle joins to the tendon or the Musculo-tendinous junction.

Sprains and strains are determined by their grade, from Grade 1- 3; 

  • Grade 1 is where the fibres are stretched but not torn. 
  • Grade 2 is where the fibres are torn but not completely ruptured.
  • Grade 3 is where the fibres of the ligament of tendon are completely torn or ruptured.

Most Grade1 injuries heal in a couple of weeks, Grade 2 injuries can take up to 3 months and most grade 3 injuries with require surgery or prolonged periods of immobilisation.

Initial treatment consists of RICER:

  • Rest or relative rest
  • Ice about 10-15 minutes x2-3 times a day
  • Compression, seek medical advice
  • Elevation
  • Referral to a Physio or other health care professional

Most simple sprains and strains can be treated conservatively with some simple advice from a skilled musculoskeletal therapist. In most cases that don’t require a radiological test, such as XR, ultrasound or MRI. So book in and get your treatment underway, I believe Physio can make a significant difference in accelerating the treatment of these types of conditions.

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