While the treatment of muscle strains and sprains are essentially the same, they are actually two different injuries. A strain occurs in tendons and muscles of the body, usually involving a twisting motion. Common strain injuries are back strains, tennis elbow, golf elbow, and hamstring strains. Tendonitis is a strain that has become chronic.

A sprain occurs in the ligaments that join the bones of the body together. Severity is graded on a scale of I, II, or III. A Grade I sprain is the least severe with mild pain and it heals quickly, within 1 to 2 weeks or less. Grade II is more serious and limits movement or activity for up to 6 weeks, while a Grade III strain severely limits movement. A Grade III strain features muscle spasms as well as bruising and can take up to a year to heal.

Initial treatment of strains and sprains is the standard first aid R.I.C.E.; rest ,ice, compression, elevation. Anti-inflammatory medications are also suggested as less inflammation means less pain.
After the first 48 hours, hot packs can be used daily to reduce muscle tension and increase nutritive circulation.

Painful strains or sprains that limit mobility with visible swelling or bruising should be evaluated by a physician as severe injuries sometimes require surgery.

Doctors often prescribe physical therapy to aid healing and a customized rehabilitation program can be helpful in restoring strength and range of motion. Massage therapy is a useful complementary treatment. Massage therapists should be certified in neuromuscular therapy or positional release and combine massage with hot packs.

While a strain or sprain is healing, avoid using the injured area or engaging in activity that causes pain. Pain is a warning that the injury is under stress and will set back healing time by several days or weeks.