What is a muscle strain or a muscle sprain? That's a good question! First some background:
Attached to all the bones are ligaments. Muscle that connects bone to another bone is a ligament and are often composed of thick bands of cartilage. Muscle that connects to bone is called a tendon.
A muscle strain involves injury to the muscle or tendon. Usually these are acute in nature that occurs when you overstretch or over contract. They often occur in response to a tear, twist or pull of the muscle . This will usually be accompanied with pain, muscle spasm and weakness.
A muscle sprain involves injury to the ligaments. This occurs when the ligaments stretch or tear. A muscle sprain will often present itself as a pain, swelling, instability and pain with movement. They occur with a traumatic event such as a fall, or blunt force trauma to the area. The surrounding joint is displaced from its normal alignment.
Essentially part of the muscle gets a slight tear. This injury causes an inflammatory response (part of the body's healing mechanism), which intern may cause so swelling. A complete tear is referred to as a "tear" and not just a strain or sprain. Something that is completely separated from a tear may have to be surgically repaired.
So that sprained or strained area may be red from inflammation or heat, and may be swollen also. If it's a joint like a wrist or ankle you may visualize the swelling whereas in the spine you may not but you may feel heat.
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