A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament. Ligaments are tissues that connect bones at a joint. Falling, twisting, or getting hit can all cause a sprain. Ankle and wrist sprains are common. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and being unable to move your joint. You might feel a pop or tear when the injury happens.
A strain is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon. Tendons are tissues that connect muscle to bone. Twisting or pulling these tissues can cause a strain. Strains can happen suddenly or develop over time. Back and hamstring muscle strains are common. Many people get strains playing sports. Symptoms include pain, muscle spasms, swelling, and trouble moving the muscle.
At first, treatment of both sprains and strains usually involves resting the injured area, icing it, wearing a bandage or device that compresses the area, and medicines. Later treatment might include exercise and physical therapy.
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Stretching Safely and Effectively (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Ankle Sprains: Healing and Preventing Injury (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Hamstring Injury (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Thumb Sprains (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
- Whiplash (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) - Short Summary
- Wrist Sprains (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Sprains and Strains (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Acupuncture-movement therapy for acute lumbar sprain: a randomized controlled clinical...
- Article: Radiograph-Negative Lateral Ankle Injuries in Children: Occult Growth Plate Fracture...
- Article: Effect of electroacupuncture on muscle state and infrared thermogram changes...
- Sprains and Strains -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Ankle sprain - aftercare Available in Spanish
- Elbow sprain -- aftercare Available in Spanish
- Foot sprain - aftercare Available in Spanish
- Hamstring strain - aftercare Available in Spanish
- Hip flexor strain -- aftercare Available in Spanish
- Sprains Available in Spanish
- Strains Available in Spanish
- Tendon repair Available in Spanish
- Wrist sprain - aftercare Available in Spanish