A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament while a strain is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon.

Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive activities or by a single event. Common sprains include the ankle and wrist. Common strains include the back and hamstring. An X-ray can differentiate between the two.


The diagnosis of a sprain or strain usually can be made after the healthcare professional takes a history of the injury and performs a physical examination. Depending upon the situation, X-rays, CAT scan or an MRI may be needed to help make or confirm the diagnosis.


RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is the key to treatment.

Most sprains and strains resolve with time, but occasionally other treatment, such as physical therapy and surgery, may be required. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain and inflammation.