Sprains and Strains – First Aid


A sprain is a stretching or tearing of ligaments — the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together in your joints. The most common location for a sprain is in your ankle. A strain is a stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon. A tendon is a fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

Causes of sprains and strains

Soft tissue is made from bundles of fibres. Muscles and tendons contain specialized cells that monitor the degree of contraction and stretch that the body is capable of handling. With general use, muscles and tendons will use soft contractions to resist overstretching. However, sudden twists or jolts in the body can apply greater force than the tissue can tolerate, resulting in a tear of the fibres. Bleeding from broken blood vessels causes the swelling.

Injuries to soft tissues such as ligaments and tendons can come on suddenly or may get worse gradually. A sudden injury is related to a specific incident and is often known as an acute soft tissue injury. This normally means it has occurred within the previous 24 to 72 hours.


Joints are held together and supported by tough bands of connective tissue called ligaments. The entire joint is enclosed inside of a membrane filled with lubricating synovial fluid, which helps the body to nourish the joint and provide extra cushioning against impact. A sprain is a joint injury that typically involves small tears of the ligaments and joint capsule. Common sites for sprains can include the thumb, ankle and wrist.


Muscles in the body are anchored to joints with connective tissue known as tendons. Injury to these tendons or the muscles themselves is called a strain. The most Common sites for strains include the calf, groin and hamstring.

Symptoms of sprains and strains

The symptoms of a sprain or strain may include:
• pain
• swelling
• stiffness
• reduced efficiency of function.


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