When you encounter pain during a workout, it’s important to understand whether it’s a sprain or a strain. Here’s how to differentiate between them and how to treat them:
A sprain involves the stretch and/or tear of a ligament, which is the fibrous connective tissue band that connects two bones. Ligaments play a crucial role in stabilizing and supporting the body’s joints. For instance, in the knee, ligaments connect the upper leg to the lower leg, enabling walking and running.
Sprains occur due to direct or indirect trauma that displaces a joint, stretches it excessively, or in severe cases, causes a rupture in the supporting ligaments. This injury often happens when a person falls and lands on an outstretched arm, the side of the foot, or runs on uneven terrain. Symptoms of a sprain include pain, bruising, swelling, and inflammation. Individuals may also feel a tearing sensation or hear a pop in the joint. In severe cases, the joint may become nonfunctional, while in partial tears, some swelling may occur.
A strain, on the other hand, is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Tendons are tough cords of tissue that attach muscles to bones.
Chronic strains result from prolonged, repetitive muscle and tendon movements. Insufficient breaks during intensive training are often culprits for strains. Symptoms include pain, muscle spasm, weakness, swelling, inflammation, and cramping. Severe strains may lead to partial or complete muscle and/or tendon ruptures, causing significant incapacitation.
While there’s no foolproof way to prevent sprains and strains, incorporating proper stretching, wearing suitable footwear, and warming up before physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of encountering these issues.