Sprain Information


Sprain is among the most common of injuries to occur during sports activities and daily routines. This injury most commonly involves the ankle, but the knee and wrist joints are also susceptible. Sprains are the result of a stretched or torn ligament, causing pain and impaired mobility. (A ligament is the connective tissue that binds two or more bones at a joint.) This often occurs when a joint deviates from its normal range of motion because of a sudden force, such as a fall, a sudden twist, or a blow to the body.

Symptoms and grades:

The severity of injury depends on the number of ligaments involved, and whether the tear is partial or complete. Sprains are categorized in three grades:

What is the difference between sprain and strain?

While a sprain is caused because of injury to a ligament, a strain results when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn.

The most common types of sprains:


Sprains can easily be prevented through the practice of simple habits and preparedness:

  • Don't push past fatigue when playing sports.
  • Maintain a healthy diet for strong muscles.
  • Keep stairways clear and use ice or salt on icy patches to prevent falls.
  • Be sure that athletic shoes fit well and have good tread on the bottom.
  • Warm up before activity and cool down afterward.
  • Wear protective equipment in sports.

Treatment of sprains depends on the severity of the sprain; however, most mild and moderate sprains can be successfully treated at home. For the first 24 to 48 hours, follow the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) method to speed healing:

  • REST. Try to avoid using the injured joint; use crutches or a cane for ankle sprain.
  • ICE. Aim for 20 minutes, 4 to 8 times a day. Use a cold pack or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel. Do not ice for longer than 20 minutes, or frostbite may result.
  • COMPRESSION. The use of elastic bandages, splints, and air casts can provide compression to reduce swelling.
  • ELEVATE. Prop joint on a pillow, higher than heart level.
Recommended Products

The first step in treating a sprain is to reduce pain and swelling.

  • Ibuprofen.
  • Aspirin.
When To See Your Doctor

To rule out a broken bone or to assess for surgery, see a doctor if:

  • You can't move the injured joint.
  • There is numbness in any part of the injured area.
  • If you have severe pain, or can't put weight on the joint.
  • If the area appears crooked or bumpy, aside from swelling.

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