Sprains and strains are among the most common injuries in sports. They can also be caused by other activities, sudden movements or even from being overweight.


A strain is the injury of a muscle or tendon (the tissue that attaches muscles to the bones). Strains are likely to come from

  • Over use of the muscle or tendon with not enough rest between intense use of them
  • A direct impact to a muscle or tendon, often in sports.
  • Overstretching

Strains typically cause pain, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, swelling, inflammation and/or cramping. In severe strains, the muscle and/or tendon may be ruptured. This would make the individual unable to move that part of their body.

Common strains include:

  • Back strain. When the muscles that support the spine are twisted, pulled, or torn, the result is a back strain. Athletes who engage in excessive jumping (during basketball, volleyball, etc.) are vulnerable to this injury.
  • Hamstring muscle strain. A hamstring muscle strain is a tear or stretch of a major muscle in the back of the thigh. The injury can sideline a person for up to six months. The likely cause is muscle strength imbalance between the hamstrings and the muscles in the front of the thigh, the quadriceps.  Hamstring injuries tend to recur.


A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament. Ligaments are the fibrous bands of connective tissue that join the end of one bone with another. Ligaments stabilize and support the body's joints. For example, ligaments in the knee connect the upper leg with the lower leg, making it possible to walk and run. A sprain is more likely to be caused by trauma to the body such as a fall or an impact that knocks a joint out of position and overstretches (or even ruptures) the supporting ligaments.

Signs of a strain can vary but might include:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling

When a sprain occurs, you might feel a tear or pop in the joint. A mild sprain stretches the ligaments but doesn’t tear them. A moderate sprain partially tears the ligament which makes the join instable and may cause some swelling. A severe sprain will immediately be very painful because ligaments have torn and can often make the joint non-functional.

How are sprains and strains treated?

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation usually will help minimize the damage and will relieve some discomfort until you can see a physician.  An orthopedic doctor will be able to assess a sprain or a strain and decide what should be done. This can include:

  • Rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy
  • Immobilization of the joint
  • Surgery in severe cases

If you think you or a family member is experiencing a sprain or a strain, please feel free to call our office and set up an appointment for evaluation.