Definition and Overview

A sprain is a tear of the ligament, a band of tissue that connects the bones to the joints. It may also refer to a ligament stretch. Most of the sprains result in pain. In severe cases, they lead to limited mobility, but they don’t typically result in a fracture.

A sprain is often confused with a strain since they both exhibit almost the same symptoms. But a strain affects the tendons and muscles. The tendons are responsible for connecting the bones to the muscles and allow the muscles to exert force.

Causes of Condition

A sprain can occur either spontaneously or gradually. A spontaneous trauma happens when there’s a sudden twisting of the ligament, such as when it is hit by a strong force or when playing active or contact sports such as basketball.

However, a sprain may also develop over a course of months usually due to repetitive use. A classic example is a wrist pain brought about by typing on keyboards.

Key Symptoms

  • Bruising in the affected area
  • Swelling or tenderness of the injured site
  • Pain, which can range from moderate to severe
  • Difficulty in walking

Who to See and Treatments Available

General practitioners are trained to diagnose and treat minor sprains. Those who have considerable experience with it can easily spot them based on the symptoms and the source of pain. Normally, the pain is felt outside the affected area. If it occurs in the ankle, which is the most commonly sprained body part, the patient will have difficulty standing up or allowing the foot to bear weight. Sometimes, to rule out other problems such as a fracture, the doctor may recommend an X-ray.

Although a sprain can go away by itself as the body has the ability to heal, certain interventions are applied to relieve the pain, reduce the discomfort, and speed up the healing process. These methods must be employed as soon as possible to avoid further problems such as muscle stiffness. These include:

  • Resting – Resting means that the movements of the affected area should be limited.

  • Cold and hot compress – There’s an ideal time to implement hot or cold compress. During the first three days of the sprain, cold compress (normally by using ice) should be applied at least every 20 minutes. The compress may be secured directly to the affected area for the convenience of the patient. A cold compress will remove the “heat” from the injury, which means it can reduce the inflammation or swelling, which is causing the pain. After this period, hot compress may be introduced to stimulate blood flow and promote recovery.

  • Medication – Pain relievers may be provided if the pain becomes unbearable.

  • Compression garments – Also called compression stockings, these can be worn to decrease swelling, bruising, and bleeding on the affected area.

  • Surgery – Surgery is rarely done. It is reserved only when the ligaments have already ruptured. After surgery, the patient should undergo rehabilitation, which can last for a few weeks to months to restore the normal function of the affected area.

  • The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
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