Sprain vs. Strain: What’s the Difference?


Sprained ankles can be very painful, and it is necessary to manage them properly. While the symptoms are similar, there are differences between sprain vs. strain. Sprains happen when the ligament inside of your ankle is damaged by rapid movement. The strain, on the other hand, occurs when the ligament is overstretched. These terms may sound very similar, but understanding each difference will allow you to know how to manage the pain correctly. Sprains can occur while doing simple activities like jumping or changing direction. Because they are caused by rapid twisting, they can be classified as a strain and not a sprain. If you have a mild sprain and it does not subside in a few days, you should rest the ankle gently and apply ice to reduce the swelling. You will probably experience some limited motion, and your performance may be restricted for a period of time, but this is normal. A strain is much worse than a sprain because it involves damage to the ligament. There are usually pain, inflammation, swelling, and redness, in addition to a risk of further injury if the strain is not treated appropriately. Most strains need to be healed with rest, ice, and heat, which should be done for at least two weeks. Swelling and inflammation are a sign that the ankle is getting worse, and treatment should be done quickly. Ice will reduce the swelling and relieve the pain, while the heat will help increase blood flow and speed up the healing process.

One of the most significant differences between sprain vs. strain is the level of pain felt in the ankle. Sprains usually feel more like a slight shock to the side of the foot, while a strain feels much more like a burning pain. This is because the ligament has been overstretched beyond its ability to withstand. Overstretching of the ankle ligaments is usually the cause of a sprain, so rest is the only way to ease the pain until it is handled properly. If the sprain is more severe, the person may receive cortisone injections which will also provide some relief. Sprained ankles can occur in athletes, particularly runners or basketball players. This is because the body tends to compensate for the increased force that is placed on the ankle by lengthening and strengthening the muscles surrounding the ankle. The longer you rest, the less likely you are to sprain an ankle, mainly if it occurs on only one foot. The strain is much worse because it causes the muscles around the ankle to contract much more complex and longer than they would if you were resting. This increased tension is terrible for the forces and can cause the tendons and ligaments around the ankle to shorten, forming a torn ligament. Sprained ankles are very common, mainly as athletes grow older and put more stress on their ankles. If the pain persists, then it is time to see your doctor or pharmacist get the treatment you need. The treatment is very similar between a sprain and a fracture and consists mainly of ice, compression, and ankle elevation. Resting the ankle can be painful, but it is time to get treatment if it does not improve.