Foot Pain – Strain or Sprain

twist ankle photoSprained Ankle. Seems like the common childhood ailment. A kid’s out on the playground, steps wrong, rolls their ankle, comes hobbling in and spends a few days on crutches. How many of us had that happen when we were elementary students. Now, as an adult, when we step wrong and it gets painful it takes a little longer to feel better. But what do we call that foot pain? Is it a sprain? Is it a strain? What’s the difference.

Difference between a strain and a sprain

A sprain involves a joint and happens when ligaments are stretched or torn. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect bones together. These bones are in a joint, so it is commonplace for an injury. The most common place for ligaments to be stretched is in the ankle joint, the most common sprain is an ankle sprain.

A strain is when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn. Tendons connect bones to muscles and are dense fibrous cords. Muscle strains are more common in the hamstring or lower back muscles.

While both types of injuries will usually involve pain and swelling, a sprain is more likely to have bruising, limited movement in the joint and you can feel or hear a “pop” in your joint. A strain is more likely to have muscle spasms and a limited ability to move the muscle.

Treatment and When to Seek Medical Attention

With any strain or sprain initial treatment is generally RICE.





When should you come to see your podiatrist? Some good indications are if you can’t take more than four steps without significant pain, there is numbness in any part of the injury, the injured joint can’t be moved, there is pain directly over the bones of an injured joint.

Causes and Risk Factors for Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are often caused when a person is walking or exercising on an uneven surface. Losing your footing can be a good way to cause an injury. There are also factors that can increase the risk for an ankles sprain.

  • Poor Shoes – Always wear high-quality footwear in good condition, especially when exercising or playing sports. The high heeled shoe is iconically related to the concept of twisting an ankle for good reason. If your shoes don’t fit or you are crossing uneven terrain be sure to have the right kind of shoes.
  • Exahustion – When muscles are tired they have a more difficult time supporting joints. When you are fatigued, be extra careful so you don’t stress a joint or overextend a muscle.
  • Slippery When Wet – Watch out for wet or icy conditions. Slippery surfaces can be treacherous
  • Being Out of Shape – Poor conditioning can leave muscles weak and have the potential for injury. If you are just starting a new exercise routine, take it slow and be careful not to overexert yourself.
  • Poor Warm-up – Warming up before exercise helps loosen muscles, and gives a greater range of motion to joints. Taking time to warm-up is always a wise move.
  • Ankle Sprain or Foot Strain

    If you are having pain from an injury, it’s always good to have it checked out. Our doctors can determine if it’s a strain or a sprain and select an appropriate course of treatment. Contact us today for an appointment!

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