A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament. Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones to bones at joints.
A strain is also a stretch or tear, but it happens in a muscle or a tendon. Tendons link muscles to the bones.
First aid for muscle strains
Most muscle strains can be successfully treated at home. According to the Mayo Clinic, minor muscle strains can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).
Avoid using your muscle for a few days, especially if movement causes an increase in pain. But too much rest can cause muscles to become weak. This can prolong the healing process. After two days, slowly begin using the affected muscle group, taking care not to overdo it.
Apply ice immediately after injuring your muscle. This will minimize swelling. Don’t put ice directly on your skin. Use an ice pack or wrap ice in a towel. Keep the ice on your muscle for about 20 minutes. Repeat every hour on the first day. For the next several days, apply ice every four hours.
To reduce swelling, wrap the affected area with an elastic bandage until swelling comes down. Be careful not to wrap the area too tightly. Doing so can reduce your blood circulation.
Whenever possible, keep the injured muscle raised above the level of your heart.
Other self-care methods include the following: