You pulled a muscle in your back and it hurts like crazy. And you probably don’t even care whether they call it a Strain or a Sprain, as long as they make the pain go away! Ouch! However, there is a difference between the two that you should be aware of, as this can help you get the right treatment which will also be more effective.
If you thought that the difference between a Strain and a Sprain is the level of severity, you are wrong! Both can be very minor or very severe, and the difference doesn’t lie in the level of pain but mainly on the part of the body each affects. Let us find out.
What is the difference between a Strain and a Sprain?
The very textbook definition of a strain and a sprain are different. While a strain is an injury to a tendon or a muscle, a sprain is an injury to the ligament. Now you’d think, they both sound so similar that it shouldn’t really matter what you call it as long as the pain is treated! But fact is, ligaments and tendons are structurally different, and have different jobs, which is why these ailments also become quite different.
What are the similarities in a Sprain and a Strain?
Well, this one confuses you further. The way to decide how severe a sprain or a strain is also is quite similar. Both injuries are decided based on severity that goes from the 1st degree to the 3rd degree.
1st degree – The tissue, muscle, tendon or ligament, is not torn off but there is a slight pain and dysfunction. Usually no swelling occurs.
2nd degree – The tissue, muscle, tendon or ligament, is overstretched and partially torn. The degree is signified by swelling, bruising and a lot more pain.
3rd degree – The tissue, muscle, tendon or ligament, is ruptured and here is severe bruising along with pain and even loss of function in the specific body part.
Even more confused now, as to how will you know the difference and why should you even care about it, as long as a Paracetamol (or any other pain killer) and rest helps you? This is why….the treatment for both a sprain and a strain are different! And this is exactly why you need to know which ailment you suffer from, before you start putting ice packs and compression.
Suffer from sprained joints and ligaments? Keep moving!
Yes, you heard us right. Unlike what you might think, a sprain doesn’t mean you sit and get rest. In fact, doctors recommend you keep moving the sprained joint because that will make the injury heal quicker. If you have a 3rd degree sprain, you might need sometime before you can start moving that body part, but eventually a few exercises will really help in improving the functioning of the ligament or joint.
However, there is an exception. And this is if you have a severely sprained ankle, a 3rd degree sprain. In such a case, immobilization for a minimum of 10 days is recommended before you start with the exercises your doctor recommends to soon have full recovery.
Strained your muscles at the gym? Get rest immediately!
Now unlike a sprain, a strain can only get worse if you continue to use the body part that is injured. Your best bet to recover from a strain faster is to immobilize the injured body part. You could even wear a brace or splint for support. The recovery time needed will be based on the severity of your strain. The idea behind this rest is to allow the muscles to heal before you move again, so that no further tearing or rupturing occurs.
So, wasn’t it worth knowing the difference between a sprain and a strain, considering that you need different techniques to heal faster in both cases? So the next time your doctor tells you that you have strained your back, not sprained it, you don’t need to feel like an idiot!
*This article was also submitted to HealthViva.com