Sprain vs. Strain: What’s the Difference?

As a parent of a sprightly 3- or 5-year-old, you’ve definitely had your share of scary moments whenever you see your child fall down after running around the field or goofing around with friends.

No parent ever wants to see their child doubled over in pain because of an injured knee. However, at this stage, knee injuries are commonplace for children who are physically active.

The knee is a very complex joint with lots of moving parts, which is why there are plenty of injuries that can happen. The most common causes of knee injuries are from repetitive action while playing sports, sudden stops or twists, and direct trauma to the knee.

It is therefore important to know the difference between a sprain and a strain so that you can treat your child’s injury correctly.

How to Tell One from the Other

A knee sprain involves the tearing of a ligament, while a knee strain involves the tearing of a muscle. In both instances, pain, swelling, limited flexibility, and difficulty doing a full range of motion may be experienced. As you can see, both conditions display similar signs, which is why most people mistake one for the other.

The main difference between the two is that sprain causes bruising in the knee. It is caused by a direct hit to the joint, and your child will feel a popping or snapping sound when it happens. On the other hand, a strain causes cramping, muscle spasms, and muscle weakness.

Overexertion, accidents, awkward positions while sitting or standing, and prolonged repetitive motion are often the main reasons why sprains and strains happen.

If your child’s knee injury is severe that he or she cannot walk, or if there are still prevailing issues with the knee two weeks after the accident, you may need to visit a San Diego pediatric orthopedist to have your child’s knee treated professionally.

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