Difference between Sprain and Strain and How to Treat Them

Sunday 10 July 2022

Sprains and strains have similar symptoms but they affect different tissues in the body.

What are the difference?

Sprain - stretching or tearing of the ligaments (tissues that connect 2 bones). Common joints sprained are ankles, wrists, knees, hips or fingers.

Strain - injury to muscles or tendons (tissues that attach muscles to bones). Mostly occur in lower back and thigh muscles or hamstrings. Sometimes called pulled muscles.

What are the symptoms?

Sprain - pain, swelling, bruising and movement limitations. A "popping"sensation when you injured it.

Strain - pain, tenderness, redness, bruising, limited movement, muscle spasms and weakness.

As the symptoms are similar, the best guide is the location of injury.


Sprain - walk on uneven or slippery surface, land awkwardly after jumping (eg while playing basketball), during exercise, stopping a fall with your hands. More likely to sprain your joints when you are feeling tired or if you keep using old sports shoes which don't offer adequate protection.

Strain - lift something heavy without taking necessary precautions, repetitive movements eg typing on the keyboard or playing computer games using the mouse, playing contact sports like football and hockey, playing sports with a lot of quick starts, stops and jumps eg basketball, having higher risk of muscles strains in hand grip sports like golfing, straining the elbow in racquet sports like tennis or dart throwing.

Do you need to see a doctor?

Mild sprains - use ice pack several times a day to reduce swelling, elevate and rest the joint.

See a doctor if you cannot bear weight on the affected joint, have pain directly over the bones of that joint (it may mean a fracture) or have numbness in any part of that area.

(Source: Strain or sprain, Starhealth, 7 Mar 2021)

Another Solution

I have sprained my ankles twice from falling down steps when walking and also while looking at my phone (I know, I know, I should have known better). My ankles were horribly swollen and bruised and I could barely put any weight on them. 

Instead of seeing an orthopaedic doctor or a sinseh or applying any cream, this is what I did. 

I took Vitaking collagen, averaging 5-6 sachets on day 1, slowly reducing to 4 sachets a day then 2 sachets a day. Amazingly, I was able to go shopping on day 3. And went for my holidays in Australia after 10 days.

I have also woken up with a strained neck and shoulder which made even small movements extremely painful. A sudden turn would send a sharp searing pain which made me wince. No doctors. Similar formula. Same good results.

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