A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament, which is the tissue that connects bones at a joint.
Falling, twisting, or getting hit can all cause a sprain. Common areas are the ankle and wrist, and symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising and being unable to move the joint.
A strain is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon, which is tissue that connects muscle to bone. Twisting or pulling these tissues can cause a strain, which can happen suddenly or develop over time. Back and hamstring muscle strains are common, and a lot of people get strains playing sports. Symptoms include pain, muscle spasms, swelling and trouble moving the muscle.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, Australian College of Nursing and Australian Physiotherapy Association recommends that x-rays are not necessary for all ankle injuries. Discuss with your doctor whether you will need an x-ray. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
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Last reviewed: February 2020