Sprains and Strains


People use the words sprain and strain almost interchangeably, to describe everything from a twisted ankle to a pulled hamstring. But they’re not the same.

A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament. Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones to bones at joints.

A strain is also a stretch or tear, but it happens in a muscle or a tendon. Tendons link muscles to the bones.

How Do Sprains Happen?

Sprains usually happen when a person falls, twists, or is hit in a way that forces the body out of its normal position.
The most common type of sprain is a sprained ankle.
Wrist and thumb sprains are also common, particularly in sports like skiing, where it’s not unusual to fall and land on an outstretched palm.

How Do Strains Happen?

The signs of most sprains or strains are very similar: pain and inflammation, and sometimes bruising, at the injured area. Depending on how bad the sprain or strain is, the pain may be mild, moderate, or severe.
The worse the sprain or strain, the harder it is to use the affected area. Someone with a mild ankle sprain may just favor that ankle slightly. A more severe ankle sprain may cause much more pain and make it tough or impossible to walk.

When to seek care at Accelerated Urgent Care?

  • The pain and swelling don’t start to ease within 24 to 72 hours
  • You cannot bear weight
  • Your symptoms get worse
  • The bruising worsens