Sprain Vs Strain: Is There Any Difference?

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If there is anything harder than dealing with a sprain or strain, it is to try and define them. More often than not, these two terms are used interchangeably for overstretching and soft tissue injuries. 

These relatively common injuries can result from exertion, sports, or training. Some common symptoms like pain, swelling, and immobility in the injured areas make a sprain, and a strain looks quite similar. However, there are several differences between them. 

One of the most significant differences is that a strain results from the tearing of a tendon that connects the muscle to the bone, whereas a sprain damages the ligament, connecting one bone to another at the joint.


The most common locations for muscle strains are the hamstring muscle and the lower back, whereas the ankle is the most common location for a muscle sprain.


Symptoms of Sprains Symptoms of Strains
pain around the affected joint pain around the affected joint
bruising muscle spasm
limited flexibility limited flexibility
swelling swelling
reduced ROM reduced ROM


There are some situations that can make us more prone to these types of injuries - 

  • being active or doing athletic activities
  • having weak muscles
  • overexertion/overstretching
  • lifting heavy objects
  • sitting or standing for a prolonged duration
  • a continuous or repetitive motion

Treatment for Sprain and Strain

RICE to the Rescue

Mild strains and sprains are treated with the standard RICE technique. RICE stands for:

  • Rest: Keep the injured limb at rest and avoid using it while it recovers. Constantly moving the injured joint can lead to aggravated injuries. 
  • Ice: Ice aids in the reduction of swelling and inflammation in the joint. Avoid applying ice directly to the swollen area to prevent ice burns. Wrap the ice pack with a towel or soft cloth and leave it on the skin for about 20 minutes. Remove the pack for the next 20 minutes. Repeat as needed for the first 24-48 hours.
  • Compression: Compression therapy helps reduce swelling and improve blood circulation in the injured area. Correctly sized compression sleeves help to increase blood circulation.
  • Elevation: Elevating the injured limb above the level of the heart enhances blood flow to the area, reduces swelling, and relieves pain. If keeping the limb that high seems difficult, keeping it parallel to the ground is also beneficial. Typically, an ankle sprain requires complete bed rest for at least two days.


The RICE technique must be used for the first few hours after the injury to curb the pain and symptoms. Surgery may be the most viable option for severe sprains and strains to repair torn or damaged muscles, ligaments, or tendons.

Seek immediate medical attention if the following symptoms occur - 

  • difficulty standing or walking
  • feeling pain or discomfort while walking
  • inability to flex or move the affected joint
  • tingling or numbness around the joint

Recommended Products for Ankle Sprain

1. Sealed Ice Polar Ice Foot and Ankle Wrap

Wraps the entire foot and ankle with soft fleece, providing cool and calming relief. This cold therapy pack is intended to facilitate aching and painful ankles with compression and offers quick cryotherapy for soft tissue injuries to the ankle.

2. Breg Wraptor Ankle Stabilizer With Speed Lacers

Proven to reduce the chances of reinjuring the ankle. The material at the bottom of the ankle brace prevents the brace from sliding off. Similarly, the elastic forefoot material lessens fabric bunching, and the breathable spacer mesh lining wicks moisture away. It offers steadfast protection for an injured ankle and avoids any inversion and eversion of the ankle joint. The Figure-eight brace has straps made of non-stretch nylon to secure the calcaneus in a neutral posture.


3. Ovation Medical Lace-Up Ankle Brace

Provides firm ankle support with an adjustable figure-8 lace-up ankle strap for rollover protection. This ankle brace provides the right blend of compression and support for ankle sprains and comfortably fits virtually every type of shoe. Ovation Medical ankle brace for sprain provides protection appropriate for rehabilitation and athletic use.

4. Thuasne Malleo Dynastab Boa Ankle Brace

A premium brace that offers a high level of support while still being lightweight. The additional straps and metallic splint provide maximum stabilization, while the anatomic design and micro-aerated 3D fabric ensure optimum comfort.

5. Ossur Formfit Ankle Brace with Figure-8 Straps

 A hybrid between a rigid ankle stirrup and soft ankle support, the Formfit Ankle ensures a close fit that limits inversion, eversion, flexion, and extension movements. The low-profile design of the brace fits easily into shoes, and the quick lace-up feature makes it easy to don and doff.


Recommended Products for Strained Muscles 

1. Serola Sacroiliac Belt for Back Pain

Designed to provide pain relief and prevent injuries by compressing and supporting the SI joints (Sacroiliac Joints). The sacroiliac joint has been the major cause of low back pain. Sprained ligaments disturb the balance of muscular response, which results in muscle spasms, and back, hip, and leg pain.

2. Core CorFit Sacroiliac Back Support Belt

The specifically designed brace is used to relieve pain and release excessive stress from the pelvis and sacroiliac joints caused due to instability in the SI joints. This sacroiliac back belt stabilizes and supports the sacrum by squeezing the joints together. Many people use this brace for stabilizing hip joints and curbing sciatica pain and scoliosis. Ideal for pregnancy, pulled muscles in the back, or post-surgery.


3. Optec SALO TLSO Back Support

Designed for pediatric, geriatric, and wheelchair-bound patients needing spinal stabilization and support. This back support is manufactured with plastic-rigid foam and soft foam. The outer layer of plastic ensures proper alignment of the spine. Subsequently, the in-between layer of rigid foam adds stability, and the soft inner foam provides the patient with excellent padding and overall comfort.

4. Medline EMS Thigh Length 15-18mmHg Anti-Embolism Stockings

Provides a tailored and contour fit with the right amount of gradient pressure. These compression stockings facilitate optimum pressure at the ankle and gradually reduce throughout the length of the leg. Constructed with  80 percent nylon and 20 percent spandex with an open-knit weave guarantees excellent counterpressure for the life of the stocking.

5. Core Thigh Wrap 

Designed to provide moderate compression, support, and warmth for groin pull, hamstring strains, and quadricep injuries. The easy wraparound design can help ease symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome and the resulting knee pain due to inflammation. This high-quality neoprene thigh wrap delivers uniform compression and promotes circulation to curb swelling and inflammation.

Most people return to their routine lifestyle within two to three days after a mild strain or sprain. However, to fully heal and prevent reinjury, it is best to be cautious for at least two to three weeks post-recovery by taping the joint or supporting it with a brace.


Severe soft tissue injuries may take longer than usual. Physical therapy may help regain lost strength and range of motion. See your doctor if the pain persists or if it becomes difficult to manage daily activities.


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