Sprains and Strains FAQs

Muscle sprains or strains can happen as a result of overuse, fatigue or improper use of a muscle. They can occur anywhere on the body, but they’re most common in the areas surrounding the neck, back, shoulder and hamstring. 

What is the difference between a sprain & a strain?

A strain involves an injury to the muscle or to the band of tissue that attaches to a bone or muscle. A sprain involves an injury to the bands of tissue that join two separate bones. 

How long does a sprain last?

How long a sprain lasts depends on the severity of the injury itself, and the person’s body type. Some people can recover in a matter of days, while others may need several months to heal completely. 

How do you treat a sprain?

To treat a sprain yourself, you can use the RICE method:

  • Rest — Allow your affected area to get plenty of rest
  • Ice — Apply an ice pack to the injured area or take an ice bath to reduce swelling
  • Compression — Use an elastic bandage on the area to help with swelling
  • Elevation — Elevate the affected area above the level of your heart, especially while sleeping 

How do you treat a muscle strain?

For the most part, strains can be treated the exact same way as sprains, using the RICE method. You might also want to take anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce the swelling of an affected area. 

What does a muscle strain feel like?

Everybody experiences muscle strains differently. In general, you can expect to feel a pain or tenderness around the area of the strain itself, which increases with activity. You may also feel some swelling or cramping for days after your initial injury. 

How long does it take for a muscle strain to heal?

In general, most strains will heal in a matter of weeks, if not days. But the worse your injury is, the longer it will take to heal. Some strains can take several months to heal depending on the severity of the injury when it occurred.  

Find an Orthopedic Location

Mercy has orthopedic locations across most of our communities. 

Find an orthopedic location near you.