Just figured I’d make a little post to clear up some confusion regarding common injuries. People mix up strains vs. sprains all the time. Hope this little primer helps.
Both are injuries to muscle or connective tissue (ligaments & tendons). This type of injury is often caused by a traction type force, usually from a forceful stretch or twist. These injuries result in mild to moderate tears of the tissue fibers. They usually hurt.
The major difference:
Muscles get STRAINS, and ligaments get SPRAINS.
Both suck. Very common injuries, usually hurt quite a bit, and can cause you to take time off that you don’t want.
If you dance, exercise, or play any sports, EVER, you’ve probably had at least a mild one. A good example is a quad or hamstring ‘pull’. Hurts for a week or so, if you let it heal. Mild ones like that usually indicate micro-trauma, little microscopic tears in the muscle. That’s a grade 1 (usually; sometimes grading is different in different organizations or countries). Grade 2 means less than half the fibers of a particular muscle is torn. Grade 3 is greater than half. Grade 4 is a full tear (not good).
If you are active, chances are you will get at least one of these through your career in whatever you do. A good example is a ‘rolled ankle’, which happens to almost everyone. Usually same grading as strains, grade 1 to 4. Usually takes a little longer to heal than a muscle strain.
For an overview of how most injuries happen, read this.
Basically, to strain a muscle, you flex or stretch it too hard, too quick.
To sprain a ligament, you did the same thing, but you moved in a weird way that your body, well, probably shouldn’t have. Friggin OW!!! That picture is obviously an extreme example.
Healing Time – These are rough estimates, for mild (grade I-II) injuries.
Muscle strains usually feel better in a week, and are healed in about 3 weeks. If you want it to really heal, and not come back, you HAVE to rest it. Its easy to disrupt muscle healing. But don’t worry, it wont take too long.
Ligament sprains often hurt for a while, and unfortunately they heal slow. To heal, they usually take 6-8 weeks 1 (I know, its rotten!). However, usually you can slowly get back to exercise after a week or so, and you probably should. For the first few weeks, its good to wear a brace or wrap it up (you are kinda replacing your ligaments job, limiting movement in awkward directions). Strengthen the muscles around the joint, because some research 2 shows that ligaments can still be loose even a year after the injury!
These injuries suck, bad, but remember, its not forever.
Dancers: remember one of the best things about being a dancer… variety… options… see my previous post: What to do while you are injured.
Hope this all helps!