Soft tissue injuries: do you know the difference between a sprain and a strain?

Man with back strain

I was reviewing some medical records for two clients the other day. In one instance, the client was diagnosed with a sprained wrist, and the other with a cervical strain. It made me wonder if most people knew the difference between two common soft tissue injuries known as sprains and strains.

If you want to know, read on!

Most soft tissue injuries involve ligaments, muscles and tendons. There are two types of soft tissue injuries: acute and those caused byoveruse. In my practice, I deal mainly with acute injuries, those caused by a sudden trauma like a fall, a car accident, or a blow to the body.

What is a sprain?

A sprain is a tear or hyperextension (over-stretching) of a ligament. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another, like your ankle to your shinbone. Because they are flexible, the body can flex in many places where they join (at your joints). A sprain can be caused by unnaturally harsh tension on the ligaments.

There are three grades of sprains: Grade 1, 2 and 3, all of which can cause some level of instability in a specific joint, like the ankle, wrist, or knee.

  • Grade 1 is a mild hyperextension, with some injury of the ligament
  • Grade 2 is a partial tearing of the ligament
  • Grade 3 is a complete tear of the ligament

Symptoms of those suffering from a sprain include pain, bruising, inflammation and swelling. Treatment consists of rest, ice, compression bandages and elevation. More severe sprain injuries may require physical therapy or even surgery.

What is a strain?

Unlike a sprain, a strain involves muscles and tendons. Tendons are fibers that attach muscles to the bone. You can strain your back, your knee, your ankle, or other parts of the body. Like sprains, there are three grades of injury, which can be complicated by injuring both the tendons and the muscles.

Symptoms of those suffering from a strain include muscle spasms, muscle weakness, cramping, inflammation and swelling. Treatment ranges are the same as those for sprains, i.e., rest, ice, compression bandages and elevation. Your doctor may also recommend simple exercises for pain and mobility. Physical therapy and surgery are also treatments for more serious strains.

If you are ever in a car accident, understand that soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains need immediately medical attention. If left untreated, the injury could develop into a more serious injury.

I hope you found this information useful, and if you feel your friends or family might be helped by, or interested in this information, please share it.

If you have any questions about this article or any area of personal injury law, please refer to the contact info below.

Also, please read my other personal injury articles at

Contact Information:

The Law Offices of Peter Miller

1601 S. Broadway

Little Rock, AR 72206

Phone: 501-374-6300



The content of this blog was prepared by Law Office of Peter Miller, P.A. for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to solicit business or provide legal advice. Laws differ by jurisdiction, and the information in this blog may not apply to you. You should seek the assistance of an attorney licensed to practice in your state before taking any action. Using this blog site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Law Office of Peter Miller, P.A. Attorney-client relationships can only be created by written contract.

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