Sprain vs. Strain: Treating Your Sports Injury

Sprains and strains are two of the most common types of sports injuries. But how do they differ? From the causes to the recovery time, it’s important to know what you can expect with each of these conditions.

A sprain involves the injuring of the bands of connective tissues. In contrast, a strain involves the injuring of a muscle or the band of tissue connecting the muscle to the bone. This is also known as a pulled muscle.

Read on to see more in-depth information about muscle sprains and strains.

Primary Differences Between a Sprain and a Strain


While both are sports injuries, they can be caused by different things. Common causes of a sprain include:

  • Activities on an uneven surface
  • An awkward landing from a jump
  • Pivoting during exercise
  • Landing on an outstretched hand of finger
  • Overextension during sports

Here are the leading causes of a muscle strain:

  • Not warming up the muscles before vigorous activity or exercise
  • Poor flexibility during exercise
  • Poor conditioning
  • Overextension of the muscles

Repetitive injuries can also lead to a chronic muscle strain.


You’ll want to know what to look out for when it comes to a sprain and a strain. However, both conditions display similar symptoms, specifically:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Limited motion

With a sprain, you also are likely to hear or feel your joint popping during the injury. You’ll also want to look out for these additional symptoms of a muscle strain:

  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Bruise(s)
  • Spasms
  • Weakness

Treatment and Recovery

For a mild sprain, you can often treat it at home using the RICE method. RICE stands for: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

You can then pair this with the use of over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. The recovery time for a sprain varies by the severity of the issue. It can take anywhere from days to months. Seeing an Orthopaedic doctor will help to identify ways to speed up this process and get you back to your favorite activities.

You will definitely want to see a doctor for a muscle strain. Immediately after the injury, the same home remedies for a sprain apply to a muscle strain as well, except for taking the over-the-counter pain medication. This can sometimes increase the likelihood of bleeding.

When you see a physician, they will often recommend a brace or splint to help immobilize the muscle. In certain cases, surgery will be considered.

Consult Our Experienced Orthopaedic Surgeons in Charleston, SC

Whether you’re suffering from a sprain or strain, the team at South Carolina Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center is here to help. Meet our team of Orthopaedic doctors in Charleston, SC, and schedule your consultation today.

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Request an appointment with the professionals at South Carolina Sports Medicine if you’re experiencing pain or are dealing with an injury. Call or text us at (843) 572-2663 for more information about our services.
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