At MedExpress, we're open every day with a full medical team and X-rays on site, so sprains and strains won't keep you down for long.

What are Strains and Sprains?

Sprains and strains are fairly common injuries with similar symptoms, although they involve different parts of the body. Both sprains and strains can range from mild to severe, depending on the number of muscles and ligaments involved and how badly they’re damaged.

Sprains
A sprain occurs when you stretch or tear a ligament − or the short band of flexible tissue that connects bones, cartilage, or holds together a joint. A sprain can happen in any part of the body where ligaments are found such as sprained ankles, wrists, feet, and knees. 

Strains
Strains occur when muscles and/or tendons are stretched or torn. Large muscle strains, such as hamstrings and hip flexors, are particularly common.

Strains occur when muscles or tendons are stretched or torn. Large muscle strains, such as hamstrings and hip flexors, are particulary common.

What Causes Sprains and Strains?

Sprains and strains typically occur at joints such as wrists, ankles, and knees because these areas are subject to rapid shifting movements, such as when you suddenly change direction. 

Ankle sprains, for example, can occur when the foot turns inward or outward and stretch the ligaments on the opposite side of the foot.

Symptoms of Sprains and Strains

The symptoms of sprains or strains can range from mild to severe.

Mild: Excessive stretching or a slight tear of the ligament. Small amount of swelling and tenderness, but it’s possible to put weight on the joint.

Moderate: The ligament fibers tear, but are not completely ruptured. Joint is tender, painful, and difficult to move. It is swollen, possibly discolored from bleeding, and unsteady when weight is put on the joint.

Severe: One or more ligaments tear completely. The joint won’t move normally or hold weight. The joint is very swollen and possibly discolored. It may be difficult to distinguish from a fracture or dislocation.

Treating Sprains or Strains

Treating a strained or sprained ankle, wrist, or knee can help prevent ongoing ankle problems. This is particularly true for those with repeated or severe sprains, which can develop into long-term joint pain and weakness.

RICE treatment (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is also particularly helpful during the first 24 to 48 hours following an injury to reduce swelling and pain.

Visit your neighborhood MedExpress center if there is a popping sound at the time of injury, considerable swelling, or if the injured joint can’t bear weight. We can evaluate the injury and take any necessary X-rays to determine the severity and the best possible treatment options.