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Strained thigh muscle concept in x-rayWe’ve discussed what a sprain is – a stretch or tear of a ligament – but what is a strain and is there a difference?




Why yes! Simply put, a strain is an injury to the muscle or tendon and the most well-known strain is to the hamstring tendon. Strains and sprains are similar, in that they both include a stretch or tear of tissue.


Unlike a sprain, however, a strain happens when the tear is located in the muscle or tendon instead of a ligament.  As you may know, a ligament is tissue that connects the end of a bone with another bone, and a tendon is tissue that connects muscle directly to bone.


How to treat a strain?


Often times a strain is minor enough to be treated with the tried and true RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.


With a strain you can see improvement fairly quickly with the RICE method. If symptoms do not improve, professional medical care should be considered to prevent a potentially permanent injury.


muscle strain



How long does a strain take to heal?


Orthopedic injuries are typically measured in months rather than days or weeks. However, a strain rarely requires surgical intervention.


An important rule of thumb is to look at yourself and say “are you seeing or noticing improvement from before” rather than saying “are you better or not.” Are you able to bear more weight or walk farther/longer than last week.



Is there a way to prevent strains?


A good way to prevent strains is properly warming up for the specific activity you are anticipating to perform.


Properly warming up before activity and stretching afterwards is vital to injury prevention. Dynamic stretching is currently the best form of stretching when warming up for an activity. Static stretching is considered an after activity stretch.


Many strains that come into the office are weekend warriors or adults who decide to go for a mile run when they have not been active for some time.


A sudden increase in activities and/or over doing it, is an often source of injury. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down, or you may find yourself in the doctors office and/or laid up on the couch for a few weeks… no one wants that.





Author: Stephanie Jones, AT