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Sprain or strain?

Sprains and strains are terms that get utilised regularly to describe injuries, but do we know the difference?

Sprains occur when a ligament is stretched or torn, often through a forceful trauma. Patients may reports symptoms of pain around the injured joint, swelling, possible bruising, limited joint mobility, and pain on weightbearing. Ligament injuries, depending on their severity, can take from 6 weeks to 1 year to recover. This is largely due to their very poor blood supply, and a guided rehabilitation programme is crucial for effective recovery.

Strains refer to muscle and tendon injury, where fibres are stretched or torn in response to large forces being placed on them. Patients may report intense pain, weakness and bruising. Again, there are varying degrees of injury, and the more severe the strain, the longer the repair process can take, from up to 12 weeks, to 6 months.

With any strain or sprain, the appropriate rehabilitation is vital, in not only ensuring a full return back to function, but to also prevent the potential for re-injury to occur. Research states that 'wait-and-see' approaches are ineffective for recovery, and early intervention offers the most favourable results.


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