Physical Therapy for Sprains and Strains

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.

Both can be painful injuries, especially in the acute stage, and may cause a great deal of swelling. Physical therapy for a sprain or strain will be slightly different, but both focus on decreasing symptoms and restoring function. It’s important to reduce over-compensation for your injury through movement so that you do not experience residual injuries.

To aid in the healing process, your physical therapist will also likely suggest proper bracing and compression.


Treatment for a sprain will vary depending on the degree of the sprain. Therapy to minimize swelling and pain and promote function may include:

  • Therapeutic exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles surrounding the affected joint
  • Joint mobilization techniques performed by the therapist to the affected joint
  • Heat, ice, and/or electrical stimulation


Treatment for a strain will vary depending on the degree of the sprain. The goal is to heal the injured muscle through movement while preventing a buildup of scar tissue. Therapy can include:

  • Therapeutic exercises to stretch and strengthen the strained and surrounding muscles
  • Soft tissue mobilization, such as the Graston Technique® to break up fibrous tissue and scar tissue
  • Heat or ice as needed to control swelling and pain
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