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Is it a Sprain or a Strain? Houston Sports Medicine Doctor Answers.

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

People often use the words strain and sprain interchangeably. But they are two different kinds of injuries. A sprain is a stretching or tearing of a ligament. Ligaments provide stability to joints. Sprains can range from mild (slight discomfort and bruising) to severe (inability to move a joint because a ligament is completely torn away). A strain, on the other hand, affects a muscle or tendon. Like a sprain, strains can be mild, moderate, or severe. As a Houston sports medicine doctor, I frequently see both of these injuries.

Now that you know the difference between a strain and a sprain, you may be wondering…

1) How do strains and sprains happen?

2) How can I prevent them?

Causes of Sprains

A sprain is often caused from falling, twisting, or being forcefully hit. Sports-related examples include ankle sprains, knee sprains (such as an MCL or ACL sprain or tear), and elbow or shoulder sprain. These may occur while playing basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis or other active sports.

Causes of Strains

A strain is often the result of chronic overuse of a muscle or tendon in a repetitive motion. Strains may also be caused by a direct blow to the body, excessive contraction, or overstretching. Examples of sports-related strains include Achilles heel injury, tennis elbow, rotator cuff injury and hamstring injury. Sports that involve repetitive motions like baseball, tennis and golf are common for strains. Athletes who make abrupt motions in sports such as gymnastics, wrestling, sprinting and hockey may also be more strain-prone.

Treating Sprains & Strains – Houston Orthopedic Physician Tips

The first step in treating a strain or a sprain is to apply the RICE method. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. In moderate and severe strains and sprains, it is important to see a Houston orthopedic physician to evaluate the injury and establish a treatment plan.

The best thing you can do, as an athlete, is to prevent these injuries from happening in the first place. Consulting with a Houston sports medicine doctor may help you analyze your risk and put a prevention plan in place. These tips may help reduce the likelihood of a strain or sprain:

  • Wear well-fitting shoes.
  • Stretch and warm up before participating in activities, including practice.
  • Use proper equipment.
  • Eat well to maintain healthy muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Don’t play a sport if tired or in pain.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be properly conditioned for the activity you are doing.

Schedule Your Appointment With a Houston Orthopedic Physician

To schedule your appointment with an orthopedic physician in downtown Houston, call Houston Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics at (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.