Sprains and strains are usually minor injuries that often occur during sports, exercise, or other physical activity.
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the tissue that links bones together at joints. Sprains happen most often in the ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist.
Strains are tears in muscle tissue. They happen most often in the muscles that support the calf, thigh, groin, and shoulder.
Sometimes sprains and strains can be severe, and require weeks of rehabilitation.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of strains include:
- Muscle stiffness, tenderness, or soreness
Symptoms of sprains include:
- Pain at the time of injury
The joint may be unstable or you may not be able to use the affected part of your body if the injury is serious, involving a muscle or ligament tear.
What Causes It?
Sprains generally happen when a twisting force is applied to a joint while it is bearing weight, which causes the ligament to stretch beyond its usual limit. Sprains tend to happen with sudden, unexpected movement, like a fall or a twist.
Muscle strains happen when the weight on a muscle is greater than the weakest part of the muscle can bear. Strains tend to happen during activities that require your muscles to stretch and bear weight at the same time. Being injured before or having limited flexibility may contribute to sprains. You are at risk for a sprain or strain if you:
- Exercise without warming up properly
- Use athletic equipment that does not fit properly
- Participate in sports and activities that you are not conditioned for
- Exercise when bones and muscles are fatigued