What you need to know:
- Sprains may be mild or severe, but they always require treatment.
- The most common treatment is RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
- Depending on the severity of the sprain, you may need physical therapy.
You know that feeling when you step off a curb and twist your ankle? Unfortunately, you have just sprained it. It can happen in any sport, at home or work, or even while walking down the street.
Sprains are one of the most common injuries sustained by people of all ages. Some people may not realise they have a sprain and delay seeking medical help, leading to further damage.
So, what is a sprain, and what should you do if you think you have sprained your ankle? A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the tough band of tissue that connects bones. Ligaments support and stabilise joints.
There are three grades of sprains, depending on the severity:
- Grade I sprain: mild stretching of the ligament with some damage to the tissue. There is usually some pain and swelling.
- Grade II sprain: moderate stretching and tearing of the ligament with considerable damage to the tissue. There is considerable pain, swelling, and bruising.
- Grade III sprain: a complete tear of the ligament with extensive damage to the tissue. This is the most severe type of sprain.
The ankle is the most commonly sprained joint, but sprains can also occur in the knee, elbow, and wrist.
Significant causes of a sprain
- Twisting injuries
- Direct blows to the joint
- A sudden pull on a ligament, such as in a sports injury
The most common symptoms of a sprain are:
- Trouble moving the injured joint
- The pop sound during an injury
Sprain risk factors
- Playing sports that involve contact or high-impact activities
- Having weak muscles around the joint
- Wearing inappropriate shoes for the activity you are participating in
Diagnosing the sprain
The doctor will ask how the injury occurred and perform a physical examination of the injured joint.
X-rays may be taken to determine if there is any damage to the bones.
Treatment for Sprains:
Grade I sprain: Treatment usually involves RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In addition, a bandage or brace may be used to support the joint and help reduce swelling.
Grade II sprain: Treatment usually involves RICE and physical therapy. A cast may be needed to support the joint and prevent further injury.
Grade III sprain: Treatment involves surgery and physical therapy. A cast or brace will be needed to support the joint.
Prevention measures for sprains:
- Stretching before and after exercise to loosen the muscles and ligaments.
- Wearing shoes that fit well and provide good support.
- Strengthening the muscles around the joint.
- Avoid activities involving contact or high-impact activities if you are at risk for a sprain.
- Keep a healthy weight as obesity increases your risk for a sprain.
- Use caution when walking on uneven surfaces.
If you feel like you have sprained your ankle, stop the activity and seek medical help. Early treatment can prevent further damage.
The difference between a sprain and a strain:
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the tough band of tissue that connects bones. A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, the cord-like tissues that attach muscles to bones.
Sprains and strains are common injuries and may be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).
Prevention measures for both injuries include stretching and strengthening the muscles and ligaments.