Sprain

A sprain is an injury that damages a ligament. A ligament is a firm, fibrous band of tissue. It connects two bones across a joint. There are ligaments crossing all of the joints in the body. Grade 1 and 2 sprains are less severe. The internal structure of the ligament is damaged, but the ligament remains intact. Grade 3 sprains are more severe. They include complete tears of the ligament. Grade 3 sprains are sometimes called torn or ruptured ligaments.

  • Causes

    A sprain occurs when a force pushes the bones of a joint apart. If the force is intense enough, the ligament holding the joint together has to give.

  • Definition

    A sprain is an injury that damages a ligament. A ligament is a firm, fibrous band of tissue. It connects two bones across a joint. There are ligaments crossing all of the joints in the body.

    Grade 1 and 2 sprains are less severe. The internal structure of the ligament is damaged, but the ligament remains intact. Grade 3 sprains are more severe. They include complete tears of the ligament. Grade 3 sprains are sometimes called torn or ruptured ligaments.

    Sprain: Grade 2
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Your doctor may need images of your joint. This will help check for damage to bones or other structures. Images may be taken with:

    • X-ray
    • MRI scan

  • Prevention

    It may be difficult to avoid sprains. Joints are at risk during athletic activities. To reduce your chance of getting a sprain:

    • Use proper techniques to help avoid awkward motions and missteps
    • Participate in flexibility, strength, and fitness training

  • Risk Factors

    Sprains can occur with everyday activities, but they are more common during sports.
    Sports with high speeds and risk of collision have an increased risk of sprains. These sports include:

    • Basketball
    • Football
    • Skiing
    • Gymnastics

    Factors that may increase your risk of a sprain include:

    • Muscle weakness
    • Lack of flexibility
    • Coordination and balance difficulties
    • Sudden change in direction
    • Impact with object or other person
    • Misstep that causes a sudden strain at a joint

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of a sprain may include:

    • Pain immediately after the sprain—without treatment, the pain becomes worse over the next 24 hours
    • A popping sound
    • Local swelling, often within minutes
    • Bruising
    • Trouble moving the joint
    • Increased pain when putting pressure on the injured area

    The most common joints involved include:

    • Ankle
    • Knee
    • Thumb or finger joints
    • Shoulder

  • Treatment

    Treatment will depend on the joint involved and the extent of the injury. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include: