Muscle Aches, Sprains & Strains

Many people who visit chiropractors do so for sprain and strain injuries. In addition to joint manipulation, chiropractors use other treatments for sprains and strains, such as using ice and heat and ultrasound or electrical muscle stimulation. Chiropractors may also recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to aid recovery. In a study of people with ankle sprains, researchers compared chiropractic joint manipulation with an anti-inflammatory medication. They found that joint manipulation was as effective as the anti-inflammatory medication in improving pain and flexibility. It was more effective than the medication in improving range of motion.

Sprains and strains are usually minor injuries that often result from sports, exercise, or other physical activity. Sprains refer to an injury to a ligament (the connective tissue that links bones together at joints). Sprains happen most often in the ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist. Strains are tears in muscle tissue. They happen most often in the muscles that support the calf, thigh, groin, and shoulder. Sometimes sprains and strains can be severe, needing weeks of rehabilitation.

Signs and Symptoms:


  • Muscle stiffness, tenderness, or soreness
  • Swelling


  • Pain at the time of injury
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

You may have joint instability or disability if the injury is serious, involving a muscle or ligament tear.

Sprains generally happen when a twisting force is applied to a joint while it is bearing weight, which causes the ligament to stretch beyond its usual limit. Sprains tend to happen with sudden, unexpected movement (a fall or a twist). Muscle strains happen when the weight on a muscle is greater than the weakest part of the muscle can bear. Strains tend to happen during activities that require your muscle to stretch and bear weight at the same time. Some evidence suggests that being injured before or having limited flexibility contributes to sprains. You are at risk for a sprain or strain if you do the following:

  • Exercise without warming up properly
  • Use athletic equipment that does not fit properly
  • Participate in sports and activities that you are not conditioned for
  • Exercise when bones and muscles are fatigued

More information available at: UMM.