Workers’ Compensation: The Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain

What’s the Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?

Bob ended up at the doctor’s office what he thought was going to be a normal day at work. There was a blinding pain in the knee. For the uninitiated, a sprain, strain or tear could sound very similar and confusing. Even more so when words like these are used interchangeably all of the time.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States, more than 40% of people who were hurt on the job due to sprains and strain related injuries. The injured often had to miss work to recuperate.


The two injuries sound similar but are fundamentally different from each other. Before we delve into the difference between these two, we need to know the difference between a ligament and a tendon.


What is a Ligament?

A ligament is a fibrous tissue that connects bones to each other. They can be thought of as the glue that holds our joints together. The various joints in our body like the knee, spine, and shoulder can perform a free and controlled range of motions due to the presence of ligaments.


What is a Tendon?

They are another kind of flexible connective tissue that helps attach the muscles and bones. They are primarily used to move the bone.


Both sprains and strains are caused due to overstretching and might have similar symptoms like swelling and pain. But here’s how they are different:



  • Overstretching or tear of the ligament.
  • Difficult to move joints with ligaments. (Ankle, Knee, Wrist etc)
  • The possibility of a popping sound during injury.


  • Overstretching of the tendon.
  • Commonly accompanied by muscle spasm or cramps around the injured area.
  • Limits mobility of muscles.


The therapy for both kinds of injuries is R.I.C.E. Resting the area, applying Ice, Compression of the area, and keeping it Elevated.


According to the US Department of Labor, the top factors that contribute to sprains and strains are as follows:

Postures: A stressful or unnatural posture like bending or kneeling for a long time could result in one or the other injury. The opposite which is being in the same position for a long time can also cause poor blood circulation, thereby making your body prone to injury.

Repetition: Repetitive work can cause stress to joints and muscles, especially knee and ankle injuries.

External Factors: Extreme temperatures both hot and cold can be damaging to the muscles. Working with power tools that produce vigorous vibrations can also contribute to muscle and bone injuries.

Improper Tools: The saying that “a bad workman quarrels with his tools” does not hold good here. Working with inefficient or wrong sized tools can make you susceptible to sprains and strains.

Work Organization: If your workspace is not properly organized and there’s a lack of safety orientation, then it goes without saying that a mishap is waiting to happen.


An employer should keep these in mind and conduct surveys and inspections to make sure standards for safe working are maintained. There is also a need to instill safety standards and practices in employees with safety training and regular health evaluations.


A sprain or strain may turn into complications in the long term if left untreated or unevaluated, more so because they are hard to diagnose. Soft tissue damages can take a while to heal depending on the circumstances and treatment. So if you or someone you know has been injured and you are suspecting it to be a sprain or a strain, it is better to get it evaluated by a medical practitioner.


It is also prudent to contact a work injury lawyer to find out whether you have grounds to claim benefits under workers’ compensation. They can pursue the case on your behalf to claim compensation for treatment, rehabilitation, and lost wages.


Have you suffered a sprain or strain in the workplace? Contact The Law Offices of Goldberg & Wolf at 856-651-1600 for a free consultation. Our attorneys and legal team would be more than happy to answer any questions you have regarding a case.