Sprains and Strains: What to Do About These Common Sports Injuries

Joint sprains and muscle strains happen in even the most diligent athletes. At LA Pain Doctor, pain management experts Firas Hijazi, MD and Satvik Munshi, MD know how sprains and strains can interfere with your ability to stay active.

If you’re sidelined by pain or immobility because of a sprain, strain, or other sports injury, we can help you get back on your feet again.

Difference between sprains and strains

Many people use the terms sprains and strains interchangeably when describing pain from sports injuries. While the pain can feel similar, there is a difference between the two conditions.


Sprains describe an overstretching of ligaments, the bands of thick tissue that connect two bones in a joint. In some cases, ligaments can also tear.

The most common location for a sprain is the ankle joint. You might be at increased risk for this type of injury if you play sports, like basketball or soccer, where you make sudden turns or stop abruptly.


Strains are injuries that affect your muscles or tendons, the fibrous tissue that attaches your muscles to your bones.

Muscle strains can occur anywhere but are most common in the hamstring muscles of your legs and in your lower back.

Your risk for sprains and strains increases if you fail to warm up properly before you begin physical activity. You can also be at a higher risk for these common types of sports injuries if your muscles and joints are weak from a lack of conditioning.

Recognizing symptoms of sprains and strains

The symptoms of sprains and strains are similar but have distinctive features that can help you tell the difference in the type of injury you have.

The symptoms sprains and strains share include:

When you have a sprain, you’ll likely have visible bruising around the injured joint. When you have a strain, it’s common to experience muscle spasms in the area near the joint.

How to treat sprains and strains

The standard treatment for sprains and strains involves the RICE technique. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation to reduce joint inflammation and prevent a worsening of your injury.

You should keep pressure off your joint for at least 48 hours to allow your body time to heal. When applying ice, leave it on the affected area for 20-minute intervals and keep your affected joint elevated up above your heart.

If your pain persists despite home care, you might need more intensive medical treatment. For instance, torn ligaments might require surgical repair. Our team at LA Pain Doctor can determine the best treatment option for your needs based on the severity of your condition.

Full healing is key

The most important thing to remember about sprains and strains is to be patient with your healing process. Returning to the game too soon can put you at increased risk for a more serious injury. 

Our team can help you decide when the right time is to go back to your favorite sport and other physical activities.

We can also provide you with resources to help prevent additional pain from sprains, strains, and other types of sports injuries.

If you need a diagnostic evaluation for sprains or strains, call the LA Pain Doctor office nearest you or book a consultation online today. 

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