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Strain VS Sprain: How These Common Sports Injuries Differ

Updated: Jan 22

Strains and sprains are two of the most common sport injuries that numerous athletes and people with active lifestyles typically experience. Many people often confuse these two terms and think that they mean the same thing. However, strains and sprains are actually different from each other.

While they are both characterised as the tearing or overstretching of the soft tissues in and around your joints, there is a key difference between a strain and a sprain. If you are one of those people who often use the terms “strain” and “sprain” interchangeably, this article is especially for you! Read on to find out the key points that make strains and sprains different from each other.

What is a strain?

A strain is a painful injury that occurs when your tendon becomes too stretched and tears. It is also often called a pulled muscle. Strains may occur all of a sudden (acute) or gradually develop over time (chronic). The most common symptoms of a strain are as follows:

· Pain or tenderness

· Bruising

· Swelling

· Muscle weakness

· Cramping or muscle spasms

· Limited movement in the affected area

Common Causes of Strains

As mentioned earlier, a strain can either be acute or chronic. Acute strains are usually caused by a single event, such as excessively running, throwing, and jumping, accidentally falling or slipping, and using poor body mechanics when lifting a heavy object. The symptoms of an acute strain are often mild to moderate and immediately go away within a couple of weeks.

Chronic strains, on the other hand, are usually caused by playing sports or engaging in activities that involve repetitive movements. These include running, tennis, or rowing. Aside from this, standing or sitting in a bad and awkward position for extended hours can also lead to chronic strains. In many cases, severe chronic strains require muscle tear treatment in Singapore.

What is a sprain?

A sprain is almost similar to a strain, except that what is overstretched and torn is a ligament, not a tendon. Ligaments connect bones with one another within a joint. On the other hand, tendons link bones to muscles. When you experience a sprain, you may feel a pop or tear in the joint as it occurs. The joint may then feel either unstable or stiff. Depending on how many tissue fibers are impacted, the symptoms of a sprain may be mid or severe. They are as follows:

· Pain

· Bruising

· Swelling

· Limited movement around the affected joint

· A “popping” sensation as the injury occurs

· Inability to use the affected joint normally or put weight on it

Common Causes of Sprains

Sprains are caused by either a direct injury or an indirect one (trauma), which knocks the joint out of alignment and overstretches and tears the supporting ligaments. The most common causes of sprains are twisting, falling, or experiencing trauma to the joint. Examples of usual situations that may result in a sprain are twisting or pivoting all of a sudden, running or walking on an uneven surface, falling and landing on the hand or wrist, and playing racquet sports or contact sports.

Like other similar injuries, sprains come in different degrees of severity based on how badly the ligaments are injured. A sprain can either be mild (only little stretching of the ligament), moderate (a combination of stretching and a little tearing of the ligament), and severe (complete tear of the ligament). In cases of severe sprains, immediate medical attention is usually called for.


Overall, although strains and sprains are similar by the fact that they are both caused by overstretching and tearing, there is a key difference between these two common injuries. While a strain is caused by the overstretching and tearing of a tendon, a sprain arises from the overstretching and tearing of a ligament. Knowing the difference between the two will help you determine the right treatment for your injury.

At Affinity Pain Clinic, we make sure that all of our pain treatments are specifically designed to address the unique needs of every patient. Our experienced and reliable physicians are equipped with the skills and expertise to provide the best sport injury treatment in Singapore. Whether you are experiencing a strain, sprain, or are looking for tennis elbow treatment in Singapore, we will be able to aid in your journey to recovery.

To book an appointment or if you have any enquiries, do not hesitate to get in touch with us at today!


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