You have just sustained an injury while playing and you have swelling and pain in your foot. But you are not sure whether it’s a sprain or strain as you can’t quite identify the difference between the two. Don’t worry you’re not alone!

Strains and sprains are two very common sports injuries related to the Lower Limbs which are often used interchangeably to describe overstretching or tearing of soft tissues in and around your joints. But they are not the same with a few key differences which can help you differentiate between the two.     

JOINT SPRAIN                                                                                                

  • Overstretching  or tearing of ligaments                     
  • May  have bruising around the affected area                                                                                           
  • Limited  movement in the affected joint 
  • Common  locations of sprain                                       

Ankle sprain: can occur when walking or exercising on an uneven surface.  

Knee sprain: Pivoting  during an athletic activity  

Wrist Sprain: Falling and  landing with an outstretched hand    


  • Overstretching  or tearing of muscles or tendons       
  • May  have muscle spasm around the affected area 
  • Possible audible “pop” in the joint when the injury occurs      
  • Limited ability to move the affected muscle  
  • Common locations for a muscle strain 
  • Hamstring muscle 

   Lower back can happen after repetitive, prolonged movement during  sports or while on the job 

Commonly affected joints

The symptoms of a sprain and a strain are very similar to the injuries themselves are very similar and no wonder the two conditions are frequently confused.

Treatment for a sprain or strain depends on the joint involved and the severity of the injury. Mild and even moderate sprains and strains can typically be treated at home with RICE therapy i.e. rest, ice, compression, elevation. Mild or moderate sprains or strains may require a brace or splint to immobilize the area.

The risk of both injuries can be decreased through the use of certain preventative measures:

  • Protect your joints through strengthening and conditioning exercises, including stretching and           stability exercises
  • Keep your body in good physical condition, especially if you are playing a particular sport. Trying to     play a sport when you are out of shape can put you at greater risk of injury
  • Good shoes that offer support for your feet can also help prevent injury.