Sprains and Strains

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Is it possible to prevent sprains and strains?

Putting the body to work requires that it be prepared for a specific activity. Athletes routinely warm up before practice and competition, and that same philosophy of injury prevention can be applied to regular daily activities. Stretching before work and gradually increasing the amount of effort and exertion may help prevent muscle and joint injury. Everybody is an athlete in their own way, and it is just as important to warm up before shoveling snow, mowing the grass, or vacuuming, as it is before playing basketball or golf. Moreover, exercises and stretches that strengthen the muscles that are used in routine activities can help maximize flexibility and minimize the risk of future injury.

What is the prognosis of sprains and strains?

The goal for treating a strain or sprain is to return the patient to their normal level of physical activity. When that can be accomplished and the time frame for recovery depends upon the specific injury. An arm muscle strain may resolve with rest, ice, compression, and elevation in one to two days, and a sprained ankle may take two to four weeks. However, a torn knee ACL, which is really a grade 3 sprain, may need surgery and months of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

It is important to discuss with a health-care professional or therapist, their expectations as to how long they think a specific injury will take to get better.

Where can people find more information about sprains and strains?

A health-care professional can be an important resource for information regarding muscle and joint injuries. Physical therapists and chiropractors can help rehabilitate people with these injuries.

Local hospitals, county health departments, and health clubs will have literature and information about injury prevention and healthy lifestyles that may minimize the risk of a strain or sprain. They may also have exercise and stretching classes, including yoga and Pilates, to help with injury prevention.


McPhee, S.J., M. Papdakis, and M.W. Rabow. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 50th ed. New York: McGraw Hill Medical, 2011.

Sherman, S.C. Simon's Emergency Orthopedics, 7th Ed. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2014.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/5/2015

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