Sprain vs. Strain

Ankle PainSome point in our lives we have all experienced a sprain or a strain, whether it be an ankle sprain while playing a sport or straining our backs lifting something too heavy. But contrary to popular belief, a sprain and a strain are two different injuries that are commonly used interchangeably that we all have experienced one time or another in our lives. In this article, we will discuss the difference between the two, how to determine which ones we have sustained and how to treat them both.

What is a Sprain?

A sprain is when there is an excessive stretch or tear of the ligament. Ligaments are connective fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones at joints. Throughout our bodies, there are many ligaments that can be sprained.

What is a Strain?

A Strain is when there is an excessive stretch or tear of the muscle. Muscles are fibrous tissues that have the ability to contract and produce movement and give us the ability to lift things.

What’s the difference?

The reason why both a sprain and strain get mixed up and thought to be one in the same is because they both cause pain, inflammation and bruising due to being over stretched or torn. But the difference between a sprain and strain is that, a sprain is related to LIGAMENTS that are over stretched or torn and a strain is related to MUSCLES that are over stretched or torn. Both are really painful and can cause limitations to everyday living.

Ankle Sprain


Although both injuries consist of pain and inflammation, the treatment approach may vary due to the severity of them. In order to determine the grade and severity of either a sprain or a strain, you should see a physician that specializes in management so that they can properly evaluate you and your symptoms and provide you a specific plan of care for your injury. They can also order an MRI to see if there is any further damage that may go unnoticed and to also get a better understanding of how severe the damage is.

Treatments for both a sprain and strain are almost the same due to the fact they both have inflammation. If the injury is minor, treatments for either both a sprain and strain are rest, ice, and in some cases over the counter medications such as Ibuprofen or Aleve for inflammation purposes and Tylenol for pain. But, if the injury is more severe, a more aggressive approach may be taken such as Prolotherapy or Platelet Rich Plasma injections which are regenerative therapy methods that can serve as surgery alternatives.

  • Prolotherapy: Prolotherapy is a regenerative therapy that utilizes Dextrose and a local anesthetic to help promote growth of new collagen and strengthen the existing ligaments by stimulating the bodies inflammatory response to increase blood flow to the injured area.
  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP): Platelet Rich Plasma is a method that has been used by many athletes in different sports. Platelet Rich Plasma is a regenerative therapy method that can serve as an alternative to surgery, which is more cost effective and more convenient. The process of Platelet Rich Plasma is when a certified care professional draws blood from the patients arm and puts the blood into a centrifuge where the blood will be spun in a rapid speed to separate the growth factors in the blood and the plasma. Once the spinning is finished, the certified care professional will then prepare the shot to be injected to the affected area.