Patient's Guides to Injuries and Conditions

Sprains and Strains – What’s the Difference?

Sprains and strains are both injuries involving soft tissues, but differ in the types of tissues affected. Tears may be partial or full thickness tears, the latter meaning the tissue has torn completely through.

A sprain is a tear in a ligament, which is a tough cord of fibers that connects two bones at a joint. A common example seen at our clinic is a sprain in the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb, known as skier’s or gatekeeper’s thumb.

A strain is a tear in a muscle or tendon. Tendons are short, flexible bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones.