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Pain Management

Common Questions about Injuries

What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?
A strain occurs when a muscle is stretched or torn. A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn. Strains are often the result of overuse or improper use of a muscle.

On the other hand, sprains typically occur when a joint is subjected to excessive force or unnatural movements (e.g., sudden twists, turns, or stops). Sprains can be categorized by degree of severity:

What is tendonitis?
Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon, a band of tissue that connects muscle to bone. It is most commonly the result of overuse during physical activities. Repetitive motions can stretch and irritate the tendon, causing pain and swelling. Tendonitis occurs around joints such as the elbow, shoulder, wrist, ankle, or knee.

What is bursitis?
Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa or bursae (more than one bursa), small fluid-filled sacs that cushion areas of friction around joints. Bursae contain synovial fluid that lubricates the joints. Bursitis typically occurs as a result of overuse during physical activities or infection of the synovial fluid. If a bursa becomes infected or irritated from repetitive stress, it will cause pain and limited movement. Bursitis is most common in the shoulder, knee, hip, elbow, or heel.

What is arthritis?
The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, can affect any joint in the body, but most often afflicts the knees, hips, and fingers. Most people will develop osteoarthritis from the normal wear and tear on the joints through the years. Joints contain cartilage, a rubbery material that cushions the ends of bones and facilitates movement. Over time, or if the joint has been injured, the cartilage wears away and the bones of the joint start rubbing together. As bones rub together, bone spurs may form and the joint becomes stiff after long periods of activity or inactivity.

This information was taken from the University Pointe Pain Management Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2007.

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Last Reviewed: Jan 16, 2007

Hammam  Akbik, MD, FIPP Hammam Akbik, MD, FIPP
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Anesthesia
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati