Strains vs sprains and how chiro helps both injuries

Exploring the difference between strains & sprains

If you’ve experienced an injury or lingering pain from overexertion, you may be wondering if it is a strain or a sprain. Strains and sprains may seem like minor injuries, but they still require proper diagnoses, care and rehabilitation. The symptoms of strains are sprains are very similar. Here’s how to diagnose which injury you have and how to treat each.

What is a strain?

A strain is a soft tissue injury that happens when a muscle or tendon is torn or overstretched. Tendons are the tissue that connects bones to muscles. You have tendons in your legs, elbow, fingers and wrist. Mild to moderate strains can three to six weeks to heal with basic home care.

What is a sprain?

A sprain happens when you overstretch or tear a ligament in your body. Ligaments are the tissue that connects bones together. You have ligaments around your knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, hips and other joints. Mild to moderate sprains will usually heal in one to three weeks with proper rest.

Causes for strains and sprains

Strains and sprains often occur as a result of the same sort of activities, which can include:

  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Overexerting yourself
  • Car Accidents
  • Sitting or standing in an awkward position
  • Prolonged repetitive motion
  • Athletic activities and exercise
  • Falling or twisting the wrong way

Ankles, wrists, knees, and fingers are all areas that are frequently sprained. While strains commonly occur in the back, shoulder or hamstring.

Symptoms of injury

If you have a strained muscle, you will likely feel:

  • Pain or tenderness on or near the injured area
  • Swelling on or near the injured area
  • A limited range of motion in the days following the injury
  • Muscle spasms

If you have a strained muscle, you will likely feel:

  • Swelling on or near the injured area
  • Bruising on or near the injured area
  • Inability to use the injured joint
  • Pain around the area that is affected

Risk factors

Some of the most common risks factors to strains and sprains include:

Being out of shape

Lack of proper physical conditioning can leave your muscles and joints weak and unable to fully support your movements and weight.

Using improper equipment

Equipment that is worn out or ill-fitting will increase your risk for a sprain or strain. It’s important you keep your shoes and any other necessary gear well-maintained.

Not warming up or cooling down

Warming up and cooling down after exercise or athletic activity helps you prevent injury. Gently warming up will stretch the muscles and increases your range of motion. A cool-down stretch helps strengthen your muscles for better joint support. Failing to do either properly could lead to injury.

Exercising while you’re tired

When you’re tired, we tend to not carry our bodies properly, and our form usually starts to worsen. Schedule days off between exercise so your body can rest and heal. Then, when you decide to work out, you can do your best work.

Your external environment

Wet, slippery, or icy surfaces are dangerous for walking and exercising. Be extra vigilant in these conditions because while these aren’t risk factors you can control, being aware of them will help you avoid any slips or falls.

How chiropractic treatment helps heal strains and sprains

Whether you are experiencing a muscle strain or sprain, chiropractic treatment can help. Chiropractic treatment can help with pain relief, swelling, and other problems that come with strains and sprains. Chiropractic adjustments and special treatments like Soft Tissue Release and Cold Laser Therapy can treat almost all forms of muscle strains and sprains and are especially effective for treating sports injuries.

Chiropractic care is low risk but can often treat the root cause of the problem, not just the symptoms. Treatment is especially useful for back, neck, and joint pain, and patients can often feel a noticeable difference almost instantly.

Read more about the powerful benefits of chiropractic treatment.

How to speed up the recovery

Following these five simple steps (P.R.I.C.E) can help to speed up your recovery of a strain or a sprain.


Protect the injured area from more damage. Protection could include using crutches, slings, braces or splints.


Don’t work too hard. Allow the injury time to heal. Avoid activities that would aggravate or re-injure the affected area.


Ice should be applied to an injured area as soon as possible. Ice can help to minimize and reduce swelling and pain.


Use a tensor bandage to wrap the injured area. When wrapping, begin at the end furthest away from the heart and wrap upwards.


If possible, raise the injured area above the level of the heart by putting a pillow under the injured area. This can help reduce swelling.

The takeaway

If you’ve recently suffered an injury, it could be a muscle strain or sprain. Both injuries require proper care and treatment to prevent them from getting more severe over time. Take good care of yourself and book an appointment with a chiropractor today.

Alex Tieu

Dr. Alex Tieu is a chiropractor with a passion for helping others achieve their health goals. Dr. Tieu wants to help his patients achieve optimal health and feel their best. He firmly believes that chiropractic care can make a significant difference in people's lives.

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