The days are longer, the sun is warmer and the little ones are eager to get out and stretch those muscles. Well, that’s what we’d prefer. We know they’d be just as happy sitting in front of the television playing video games, but let’s pretend for just a moment. Once they actually do get outside, we have to beware of injuries – most likely strains and sprains. These are common injuries for active people — usually experienced by those returning to a sport after the off-season – but also kids after a long winter in front of the Xbox. But what is the difference between a strain and sprain? And when should we be concerned?
Muscles contract and relax like rubber bands, so a strain is exactly what it sounds like: a muscle or tendon that has been stretched too far. Strains happen when you have put a lot of pressure on a muscle or push too far (such as lifting weights). They tend to happen when you skip your warm-up and your blood hasn’t had a chance to circulate through the muscles. When you strain your muscle the area will be tender, swollen and may even appear bruised.
Sprains on the other hand are caused by injuries, like twisting your ankle. Which is common in sports but can also happen any time you trip or fall. A sprain will swell and look bruised and you may even think you have broken a bone. A sprain affects ligament tissue and occurs when they have been overstretched (mild sprain) or torn (severe sprain).
What Should You Do?
Remember RICE: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.
Even though both can hurt a lot, strains are not as serious as sprains. A strain takes about 1 week to heal, and a bad sprain may take up to 3 to 4 weeks.