Sprains and strains are common injuries that can be caused by a number of things, such as falls, twists, or general overuse. A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament, whereas a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon.\nBoth can be painful injuries that may cause swelling and require medical attention, according to Trevor Delaney, DPT, director of the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Oakland location.\nIf you think you have a sprain or strain, Dr. Delaney suggests following the RICE principle.\n“During the first 24 to 48 hours, the RICE principle can be helpful for any sprain or strain,” he says. “It is important to minimize use of the affected area initially and avoid any activities that cause increased pain.”\nRICE stands for:\n\nRest \u2013 minimize use of the area.\nIce \u2013 apply for periods of 10-15 minutes every three hours.\nCompression \u2013 use a compression bandage but be careful not to make it too tight.\nElevation \u2013 the affected area should be higher than the level of your heart to reduce swelling.\n\n“Therapies for a strain or sprain will be similar and different, but both will focus on decreasing symptoms and restoring function,” Dr. Delaney says.\nPhysical therapy for a sprain will vary depending on the degree of the sprain. Treatment to minimize swelling and pain, and promote function may include:\n\nTherapeutic exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles surrounding the affected joint\nJoint mobilization techniques performed by the therapist to the affected joint\nHeat, ice, and\/or electrical stimulation\n\nPhysical therapy for a strain will also vary depending on the degree of the strain. Treatment can include:\n\nTherapeutic exercises to stretch and strengthen both the involved and surrounding muscles\nSoft tissue mobilization to break up fibrous tissue and scar tissue\nHeat and\/or ice as needed to control swelling and pain\n\n“For strains, the goal is allowing the injured muscle to heal while preventing a large buildup of scar tissue,” Dr. Delaney says. “Once the injured muscle can resume strength exercises, we work to restore that strength.”\nDr. Delaney notes that for both sprains and strains, treatment will also include educating the patient about the injury and ways to prevent injury in the future.\nIt’s important to remember that the length of therapy varies by patient, and your doctor will determine a time frame based on the severity of your injury.