What’s the Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?
Simply put, you sprain a ligament and strain a muscle. When a muscle is strained, it usually means that a few fibres have been torn within the muscle. The fibres surrounding the torn ones will contract in an attempt to protect the area from further damage. This makes it difficult for the muscle to work properly as a whole.
When your muscle is strained, it will be painful to stretch or contract. But you should still be able to use the muscles surrounding the injured area. The severity of the strain will depend on the amount of fibres you’ve damaged – and this impacts on how long it will take you to recover. To allow the site to heal and to prevent further damage, it’s important that you protect the muscle strain during the initial healing stage. This includes avoiding any stretching or straining of the muscle during the first few days or weeks (depending on the severity of the injury).
Muscle strain physiotherapy
Our sports physiotherapists can inform you on how to correctly load the muscle back to full strength, since it will be weak after the injury heals. Loading the muscle too soon or too much can cause further damage. Not loading the muscle enough leaves residual weakness and can make it more likely for you to reinjure the area in future.
Ligaments don’t contract. Ligaments are designed to withstand forces, limit excessive movement and be strong in certain directions. This way, when the muscle contracts, the body will more in a predictable direction. It also minimises wear and tear by limiting unnecessary forces and compression from going through the joint.
Ligament sprain physiotherapy
A sprained ligament is easier to stretch and will lose some tensile strength. Not only is this painful, but it causes the joint to be less stable and makes the ligament prone to further injury. When you have a sprained ligament, it’s important to continue exercising regularly. Our Sydney physios can take you through some safe, gentle movements to help you keep your muscles active to compensate for the injured ligament.