Health Care

Getting the Right Sprain and Strain Care

A man and a woman running on an incline

Whether you're back in the gym or spending time outdoors with family, just a few too many reps or one wrong step can mean nursing a hurt joint or muscle. But how do you know when it's a strain or a sprain that needs medical help? If you need care fast, our experts are here to help with on-site X-rays and answers — no appointment needed.

Sprains and Strains: How They're Different

Sprains and strains can happen either over time — such as after overusing a part of your body playing a sport — or suddenly, like after falling or twisting a joint the wrong way.

Sprains 101
Sprains affect your ligaments, which are rubber-band-like tissues that connect your bones together and keep your joints in place. A sprain might feel like a "pop" or tear, with other signs like:

  • Bruising
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Instability in the joint
  • Pain and swelling

Strains 101
Strains are similar to sprains but affect muscles and tendons, which are the tissues that connect your muscles to your bones. With a strain, this tissue is stretched or torn. Signs of a strain include:

  • Bruising (either right away or a few days later)
  • Muscle cramping or spasms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain and swelling

If you feel pain, swelling or have trouble moving a joint, you should also consider if you might've broken a bone, since mild fractures can feel similar to sprains and strains.

At-Home Remedies for Sprains and Strains

When you're dealing with a sprain or strain, you can take action at home to reduce pain and help your healing process:

  • First, rest: Take a break from doing anything that causes pain or soreness in the area you've hurt.
  • Apply ice: Put an ice pack on the hurt area for 15 to 20 minutes at least every two hours.
  • Use compression: Use an elastic bandage and wrap the area snugly to help keep swelling down.
  • Elevate the hurt area: Anytime you're sitting or lying down, prop up the injured area up on pillows.

When to Get an X-ray at Centra Care

If your injury doesn't improve in a couple of days, visit your local Centra Care. All of our locations offer X-rays on-site, so doctors can make sure you haven't broken a bone and save you a trip to the ER.

The doctor will examine the area and might ask you to move through your normal range of motion while watching for pain, tenderness, weakness or instability. In some cases, they might also recommend an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, since sprains and strains in soft tissue don't show up on X-rays.

We're here to help you understand what's wrong so we can help get you back on your feet, and back to life, as soon as possible. Click here to make an online reservation.

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