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SAFETY MINUTE
Strains vs. Sprains
Sprains and strains are common injuries
to the musculoskeletal system. Although
these two words are often used
interchangeably, they are different types
of injuries.
Important Points
What is a sprain?
A sprain is an injury involving the stretching or tearing of a ligament (tissue that connects
bone to bone) or a joint capsule, which help provide joint stability. A severely damaged
ligament or joint capsule can cause instability in a joint. Symptoms may include pain,
inflammation, and in some cases, the inability to move a limb (arm, leg, foot). Sprains
occur when a joint is forced beyond its normal range of motion, such as turning or rolling
your ankle.
What is a strain?
Strains are injuries that involve the stretching or tearing of a musculo-tendinous (muscle
and tendon) structure. An acute (instant or recent) strain occurs at the junction where
the muscle is becoming a tendon. These strains take place when a muscle is stretched
and suddenly contracts, as with running or jumping. This type of injury is frequently
seen in runners who strain their hamstrings. Symptoms for an acute muscle strain may
include pain, muscle spasm, loss of strength, and limited range of motion. Chronic (long-
lasting) strains are injuries that gradually build up from overuse or repetitive stress.
Severity of sprains and strains
A physician categorizes sprains and strains according to severity. A Grade I (mild) sprain
or strain involves some stretching or minor tearing of a ligament or muscle. A Grade II
(moderate) sprain or strain is a ligament or muscle that is partially torn but still intact. A
Grade III (severe) sprain or strain means that the ligament or muscle is completely torn,
resulting in joint instability.
Treatments
Grade I injuries usually heal quickly with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).
With proper care, most sprains and strains will heal without long-term side effects.

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Strains vs. Sprains

  • 1. SAFETY MINUTE Strains vs. Sprains Sprains and strains are common injuries to the musculoskeletal system. Although these two words are often used interchangeably, they are different types of injuries. Important Points What is a sprain? A sprain is an injury involving the stretching or tearing of a ligament (tissue that connects bone to bone) or a joint capsule, which help provide joint stability. A severely damaged ligament or joint capsule can cause instability in a joint. Symptoms may include pain, inflammation, and in some cases, the inability to move a limb (arm, leg, foot). Sprains occur when a joint is forced beyond its normal range of motion, such as turning or rolling your ankle. What is a strain? Strains are injuries that involve the stretching or tearing of a musculo-tendinous (muscle and tendon) structure. An acute (instant or recent) strain occurs at the junction where the muscle is becoming a tendon. These strains take place when a muscle is stretched and suddenly contracts, as with running or jumping. This type of injury is frequently seen in runners who strain their hamstrings. Symptoms for an acute muscle strain may include pain, muscle spasm, loss of strength, and limited range of motion. Chronic (long- lasting) strains are injuries that gradually build up from overuse or repetitive stress. Severity of sprains and strains A physician categorizes sprains and strains according to severity. A Grade I (mild) sprain or strain involves some stretching or minor tearing of a ligament or muscle. A Grade II (moderate) sprain or strain is a ligament or muscle that is partially torn but still intact. A Grade III (severe) sprain or strain means that the ligament or muscle is completely torn, resulting in joint instability. Treatments Grade I injuries usually heal quickly with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). With proper care, most sprains and strains will heal without long-term side effects.