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Everything You Need To Know About Strains, Sprains and Fractures

At GoHealth Urgent Care, we take care of a lot of orthopedic injuries, so we know it can be confusing for patients to understand the differences between strains, sprains and fractures. Here’s everything you need to know about these common injuries.


A muscle strain, also called a “pulled muscle,” happens when a muscle is overstretched or partially torn. While you can technically strain any muscle in your body, strains are most common in the neck, back and hamstrings. Mild strains can heal within a week or two, while severe strains can take several months. In order to avoid strains, it’s wise to stretch before exercising, avoid exercising outdoors in cold weather, and wear proper footwear when you engage in activities.


A sprain happens when a ligament (a thick band of tissue that connects one bone to another to form a joint) is stretched or torn. While the ankle is the most common location for sprains, patients can sustain a sprain to any joint. Ankle sprains are classified as Grade 1, Grade 2, or Grade 3, with Grade 1 being the most mild and Grade 3 being the most severe. Mild sprains often heal within weeks (or even quicker with proper treatment), while severe sprains can take several months to heal.


Contrary to what many patients believe, a fracture isn’t a less severe form of a broken bone. A fracture is, in fact, the technical term for any broken bone. The most common fracture sites are the wrist, ankle and hip. It’s imperative that patients who think they may have a fracture seek medical attention immediately, because imaging (usually an X-ray) is required to diagnose a fracture. Fractures that aren’t diagnosed promptly and treated appropriately can result in long-term complications. Most fractures heal in an average of 4 weeks.

For strains, sprains and fractures, we usually recommend RICE, an acronym that stands for Rest (i.e., minimal use of the injured body part until it heals), Ice (typically for 15 minutes at least 2-3 times a day), Compression (which can be an ACE wrap, splint or cast, depending on the injury) and Elevation (keeping the injured body part at waist-level or above when possible).

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