What is the difference between a sprain and a strain of the knee?

Playing sport or slipping on the stairs can often result in a twisted knee how do you know however, whether your knee injury is a sprain or a strain and whether it is a minor injury, or a significant soft tissue injury?

Mr Mike Wilkinson of King’s College Hospital, London has advised that a sprain is damage to a ligament, with the most common sprained knee injuried being damage to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) or the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Symptoms of a sprain include pain, swelling, and light bruising. Whilst ligaments often recover without medical intervention it is important to see your GP or physiotherapist if the symptoms have not eased after taking the following steps:


A strain is damage to a muscle or tendon and is commonly known as pulling the muscle. Symptoms of a strain include pain in the area, stiffness and greater bruising than in a sprain. Sprains typically do not require treatment after the RICE steps although if the bruising is accompanied by severe pain and the limb cannot be used this may be a sign of a broken bone and x-rays should be organised.

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