A sprain is an acute injury involving a ligament whereas a strain is an injury involving the musculotendinous unit that involves a muscle, tendon or their attachments to bone. Both sprains and strains can be classified as a Grade I, Grade II or Grade III injury based on severity:
Sprain (ligament injury): microscopic tearing resulting in swelling and tenderness, but no loss of stability. Expected healing time is 10-14 days.
Strain (muscle): There is no disruption of the musculotendinous unit. The affected muscle is painful, but strong. Expected healing time is 2 days to 3 weeks.
Sprain: there is a mild to severe 1-99% tissue disruption, which means that the ligament is partially torn. This results in mild to significant instability and pain. Healing time is anywhere from 10 days to 8 weeks depending on the extent of the tear.
Strain: there is mild to severe 1-99% tissue disruption, resulting in edema (swelling), bruising, loss of strength and pain. Healing time is anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months depending on the severity of the disruption.
Sprain: total rupture of the ligament with complete loss of structural integrity. A grade III sprain results in major instability. There may be lots of pain in the surrounding tissues, but no pain of the torn ligament. Healing time is usually 7 weeks to 18 months, as in the case of a torn ACL.
Strain: Complete rupture of the musculotendinous unit. This results in extensive swelling and bruising of the muscle, complete loss of function, and a change in the appearance of the muscle. The muscle will be weak and painless. Expect 50 to 180 days of healing time.
If you recently sprained a ligament or pulled a muscle, think “RICE”, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. For faster recovery and prevention of future injuries along the affected area, physical therapy can help.
Listen to your body’s wisdom and contact Cresswell Physical Therapy for tips on staying active while recuperating from injury. We can be reached for appointments by calling (530) 244-7686.