Sprain

A sprain is a tear in one of the strong, fibrous tissues that connect your bones (ligaments). The severity of the sprain depends on how much of the ligament is torn. The tear can be either partial or complete.

CAUSES

Often, sprains are a result of a fall or an injury. The force of the impact causes the fibers of your ligament to stretch beyond their normal length. This excess tension causes the fibers of your ligament to tear.

SYMPTOMS

You may have some loss of motion or increased pain within your normal range of motion. Other symptoms include:

  • Bruising.

  • Tenderness.

  • Swelling.

DIAGNOSIS

In order to diagnose a sprain, your caregiver will physically examine you to determine how torn the ligament is. Your caregiver may also suggest an X-ray exam to make sure no bones are broken.

TREATMENT

If your ligament is only partially torn, treatment usually involves keeping the injured area in a fixed position (immobilization) for a short period. To do this, your caregiver will apply a bandage, cast, or splint to keep the area from moving until it heals. For a partially torn ligament, the healing process usually takes 2 to 3 weeks.

If your ligament is completely torn, you may need surgery to reconnect the ligament to the bone or to reconstruct the ligament. After surgery, a cast or splint may be applied and will need to stay on for 4 to 6 weeks while your ligament heals.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Keep the injured area elevated to decrease swelling.

  • To ease pain and swelling, apply ice to your joint twice a day, for 2 to 3 days.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15 minutes.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicine for pain as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not leave the injured area unprotected until pain and stiffness go away (usually 3 to 4 weeks).

  • Do not allow your cast or splint to get wet. Cover your cast or splint with a plastic bag when you shower or bathe. Do not swim.

  • Your caregiver may suggest exercises for you to do during your recovery to prevent or limit permanent stiffness.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your cast or splint becomes damaged.

  • Your pain becomes worse.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.