A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament. Ligaments are tissues that connect bones in a joint. Falling, twisting, or being hit can cause a sprain. Ankle and wrist sprains are common. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and being unable to move the joint. You may feel a pop or tear when the injury occurs.

Initially, treating both sprains and strains usually involves resting the injured area, applying ice to it, wearing a bandage or device that compresses the area, and medications. Further treatment may include exercise and physical therapy.

Sprains generally occur when the joint is pushed beyond its functional range of motion.

There are certain factors that increase the risk of sprains. Fatigue of the muscles generally leads to sprains. When one suddenly starts exercising after a sedentary lifestyle, sprains are quite common. Although scientific studies are lacking, failure to “warm up” is often thought to be a common cause of sprains in athletes. “Warming up” is thought to loosen the joint, increase blood flow, and make the joint more flexible.

The diagnosis of a sprain can often be made with a good degree of certainty by a physical examination based on the clinical presentation and method of injury. In some cases, X-rays are obtained to ensure there are no fractures. In some cases, particularly if the injury is long-lasting or does not seem to resolve as expected, an MRI is done to look at the surrounding soft tissues and ligament.

Ice and compression (cold compression therapy) do not completely stop the swelling and pain, but will help minimize it as the sprain begins to heal. Careful swelling management is critical to the healing process as additional fluid can collect in the area of ​​the sprain.

The joint should be re-exercised fairly soon, in milder cases 1 to 3 days after the injury. Sometimes special exercises are needed to regain strength and help reduce the risk of ongoing problems. The joint may need to be supported with tape or bracing, which helps protect it from further injury.