Table of Contents

What is a Sprain?

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of ligaments — the tissue that connects two or more bones in your joints. The most common area for a sprain is in the ankles.

The initial treatment for mild sprains can be done at home, such as resting and using ice packs as compression. On the other hand, severe sprains may require surgery to repair the torn ligaments.

Contact a healthcare provider for proper treatment from an orthopaedist through Smarter Health.

Causes of Sprain

A sprain occurs when you overstretch or tear a ligament while severely stressing a joint.  Sprains usually occur in these areas: 

  • Knee. A sprain that occurs when you pivot during an athletic activity
  • Wrist. A sprain that occurs when you land with your hand outstretched during a fall. 
  • Thumb. An injury that occurs while skiing or playing racquet sports such as tennis or badminton.
  • Ankle. A sprain that occurs when you walk or exercise on an uneven surface, resulting in an imperfect landing from a jump.

Children have growth plates, which are cartilage near the ends of their bones. The ligaments around a joint are usually stronger than growth plates, so children are more at risk to develop fractures than sprains.

Other factors that may contribute to a sprain include:

  • Slippery or uneven surfaces can make you more prone to sprains.
  • Tired muscles are less likely to provide good support for your joints — this condition can even strain the joints.
  • Poorly maintained or ill-fitting equipment, such as footwear or other sporting equipment that — may result in sprains.

When to See a Doctor for a Sprain?

An orthopedic specialist doctor may perform a number of tests to diagnose the condition of your sprain. During a physical exam, your doctor will check for swelling and points of tenderness in your injured limb. The location and intensity of the pain can help your doctor determine the severity and type of injury.

An X-ray can determine a fracture or other bone injury as the source of the problem. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also be used to help your doctor diagnose the extent of your injury.

After identifying the location and severity of the injury, your doctor may recommend several ways to treat the sprain according to your condition.

Symptoms of a Sprain 

Signs and symptoms of a sprain will vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the injury and specific condition. Common symptoms may include

  • Bruising.
  • Pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Limited ability to move the injured joint.
  • Hear or feel a “pop” in your joint during the injury.

Minor sprains can be treated at home. However, injuries that cause sprains can also lead to serious conditions, such as fractures. You are advised to see an orthopedic specialist to check the condition of your injured bone or joint, particularly if you:

  • Can not move.
  • Have any numbness in the injured area.
  • Have pain just above the injured bone or joint.

Treatment for a Sprain 

Your doctor may recommend the following ways to treat sprains, including:

  • Get some rest by avoiding physical activity that can cause pain, swelling, or discomfort. However, do not avoid all physical activity.
  • While you are seeking medical help, apply ice to the affected area immediately. Use an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes, then repeat every 2 to 3 hours while you are awake. Do this method for the first few days after the injury.
  • Apply ice compression. To help stop swelling, apply an elastic bandage to the area until the swelling stops. Do not wrap the injured area too tightly as it may hinder circulation. Loosen the wrap if the pain increases, you feel numbness, or swelling below the wrapped area. 
  • Elevate your position. Use a brace to elevate your leg or other injured areas, especially when you sleep at night. Gravity is believed to help reduce swelling

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.) can also help relieve sprains.

After the first two days, try to gently use the injured area. You should notice gradual and progressive improvements in the joint’s ability to support your weight or help you move without pain. Recovery from sprains can take days to months.

The musculoskeletal system allows your body to move. Muscles are attached to the bones on each side of the joint, either directly or via tendons. Muscles move your body parts by contracting and relaxing. When the muscles relax, they return to their resting positions. 

Physical therapy can help you maximize the stability and strength of the injured joint or limb. Your doctor may recommend that you use a brace or splint on the injured area. For certain injury conditions, such as torn ligaments, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Treatment Cost for a Sprain 

Your doctor will determine the appropriate treatment procedure for your sprain — whether it can be treated at home or may require surgery. This is why treatment costs for sprain vary.

For more details regarding the estimated treatment cost for sprains at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Sprain

You can protect yourself from sprains in numerous ways. Regular stretching and strengthening exercises for your sport, fitness, and other physical activities as part of an overall physical warm-up regime, can help minimize your risk of sprains.

Try to maintain your shape by exercising regularly. If your job requires physically demanding activities, proper warm-up or regular conditioning can help prevent work injuries.

Protect your joints in the long term by strengthening and conditioning the muscles around the injured joint. Use the brace only for a short time, as the muscles can get used to the support and weaken over time.

Ask your doctor about appropriate conditioning and stability exercises. You can also use footwear that provides support and protection. If you are overweight, ask about the right diet plan and exercise program to achieve your ideal weight.

Home Remedies for a Sprain

Sprains can usually be treated at home using the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation)  method. In some cases, surgery may be required to repair the torn ligament or tendon to fully restore function and allow the muscle to move body parts. 

Sometimes, resting the injured part also requires support using a detachable splint to protect the injured area from damage and movement that may worsen your sprain. Resting can also help relieve some muscle spasms from the injury.

Have further questions about sprains? Write in the comment section below. You can also do teleconsultation with orthopedic specialists at home and abroad through Smarter Health’s free service.

Tele-consultation is the best option for you to access healthcare services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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