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Sprains and Strains

In the world of sports, most athletes will experience a sprain or a strain at some point in their career. In general, people are unaware of the difference between a sprain and strain and are uninformed on the proper treatment.

A sprain is the stretching or tearing of a ligament. Ligaments are thick bands of connective tissue that attach from the end of one bone to another. Ligaments allow for stability in a joint. A sprain can occur from non-contact trauma, such as a fall or misstep, or from contact trauma with an outside force causing stress on the ligament. There are different levels of sprains, ranging from a mild stretching of a ligament to a complete tear. Pain, swelling, and instability are common symptoms experienced after a sprain occurs. The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in the knee is an example of a type of tissue that can experience a sprain.

A strain is when a muscle or tendon is injured. A tendon is the fibrous cord that attaches muscles to bones. Strains can occur in response to a quick stretch or twist to the muscle. Pain, bruising, weakness, and muscle spasms are common symptoms experienced after a strain occurs. Areas that can experience a strain could be your hamstring muscle or rotator cuff tendon.

Initial treatment for a sprain or strain is typically similar, depending on the severity of the injury. Rest from activity, ice, compression, and elevation assist with minimizing damage and swelling. It is important in all but mild cases for a medical doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer to evaluate the injury and establish a treatment plan. If the injury appears to be severe, it may require surgical reconstruction, especially in the case of a ligament sprain. This can be followed by weeks to months of physical therapy.

There is no way to completely guarantee prevention from a sprain or strain but the following ideas can help reduce the overall risk of sustaining an injury.

  • Always wear properly fitting shoes and equipment
  • Eat a well-balanced diet to assist with general nourishment
  • Warm up and cool down properly before and after any exercise, including practices and games
  • Use protective equipment or bracing appropriate to sport
  • Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of rest and recovery from your activities
  • Consult with a physical therapist or athletic trainer to make sure you are properly loading and unloading your legs with jumping, lunging, or other sport-specific movements

Katie Cordery, PT, DPT

Omaha Physical Therapy Institute, PC (OPTI) has it’s main location at 144th & Dodge and it secondary location inside of the Omaha Sports Complex on 144th & Giles (AIM clinic). What makes OPTI unique from other physical therapy clinics is the guarantee that you will receive one-on-one care with the same physical therapist every single visit.   Healthcare can be expensive so OPTI wants to make sure each individual patient is getting the attention they deserve and that their time spent in the clinic is worth their money. This model of care speeds up recovery and improves outcomes. Visit www. for more information! Call (402) 934-8688 to schedule an appointment!