Strains and Sprains

Common Injuries Project


Strain- force (a part of one's body or oneself) to make a strenuous or unusually great effort.

Sprain- wrench or twist the ligaments of (an ankle, wrist, or other joint) violently so as to cause pain and swelling but not dislocation.

Common Causes

This injury often occurs in activities such as running hiking, volleyball, and basketball. People will fall or step on an uneven surface (in basketball this is often another player's foot) and roll their foot to the inside. This stretches the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.


While not all sprains and strains can be prevented, a few things can help you avoid this injury:

  • Stretch before you workout
  • Wear proper footwear for the activity
  • Warm up properly before activities
  • Do not run on icy or uneven surfaces


Treating sprains and strains depends on the joint involved and the severity of the injury.

  • Medications: For mild sprains and strains, your doctor likely will recommend basic self-care measures and an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
  • Therapy: In cases of a mild or moderate sprain or strain, apply ice to the area as soon as possible to minimize swelling. In cases of severe sprain or strain, your doctor may immobilize the area with a brace or splint.
  • Surgery: If you have a torn ligament or ruptured muscle, surgery may be an option.