Definition

A sprain is stretching or tearing of a ligament. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones to each other. Sprains are more common in the ankle, knee, thumb or finger joints, and the shoulder.

Sprain: Grade 2
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Causes

A sprain is when a force pushes the bones of a joint apart. If the force is strong enough, the ligament comes apart. This can happen from things like:

  • A sudden change in direction
  • An impact with an object or another person
  • A misstep that causes a sudden strain at a joint

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor flexibility
  • Coordination and balance problems
  • Playing sports, such as basketball, football, skiing, and gymnastics

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Pain and tenderness, especially putting weight on the joint
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Problems moving
  • A popping sound

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how you hurt the joint. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the joint.

It can be hard to tell a sprain from a fracture or dislocation. Pictures may be taken. This can be done with:

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the joint and how severe the injury is. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as rest, ice, a compression bandage, and raising the area to ease pain and swelling
  • Medicine, such as over the counter and prescription pain relievers
  • Devices that keep the area still as it heals
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the area and improve movement

Prevention

Most sprains are due to accidents. They cannot always be prevented. The risk may be lowered by:

  • Using the right safety gear and techniques when playing sports
  • Stretching and strengthening the ligaments that support joints
RESOURCES:

American College of Sports Medicine
http://acsm.org

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

REFERENCES:

Ankle sprain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ankle-sprain. October 12, 2020.

Derry S, Moore RA, et al. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2015;(6):CD007402.

Sprained ankle. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00150. October 12, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 10/12/2020