Is It a Sprain or a Strain?

ankle injuryWhat’s the difference between sprains and strains?

Sprain: an injury to the ligaments, which connect the end of one bone to another

Strain: an injury to a muscle of tendon (which attaches muscle to bone)

When it comes to treating minor injuries, it’s importance to practice the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.  If the pain is persistent, you may want to seek medical attention and be advised on the best treatment plan by a physician.


Avoid applying pressure to the injury by utilizing crutches and/or canes to assist with walking.


To curb redness, swelling, and pain for the first 24 hours following an injury, apply ice for 2-30 minute intervals.


Wrap up the injury in compression bandages to immobilize the injury.


Raise the injured area about your heart to bring down swelling.

What are symptoms I should look out for?

Some symptoms you may want to look out for include:

For Sprains

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Limited ability to move or flex joint
  • A “pop” noise in the joint at time of injury

For Strains

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Limited ability to move affected area

How can I prevent injuries?

Sometimes preventing common injuries can be beyond your control, can be averted with a few simple tips!

1. Warm up before every workout

Getting warmed up before physical activity increases blood flow to the muscles, increases flexibility, and decrease injury.

2. Ease into your activity

Overuse injuries are common due continued play on an injury without proper healing time.  It’s best to ease back into your activity with pre-participation training/conditioning by lightly working the relevant muscle groups in the weeks before the strenuous activity.

3. Don’t Over-exert Yourself

Muscle fatigue takes away all your protective mechanisms and increases your risk for injury.  You can always come out to play for the next game – if you don’t get injured today.

When to See a Doctor for Treatment

Most common sports injuries are mild or moderate and can be treated using the RICE method.  If the sprain or strain is severe, further treatment may be necessary.  At AFC Urgent Care Natick, we provide treatment for sports injuries such as:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Bruises
  • Fractures
  • & More

Our walk-in clinic is fully equipped with a digital x-ray system to deliver fast results and get you on an effective treatment plan.  For more information about our sports injury treatment, call us at or visit today!