Sprains

Definition

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments around a joint. Ligaments are strong, flexible fibers that hold bones together. When a ligament is stretched too far or tears, the joint will become painful and swell.

Causes

Sprains are caused when a joint is forced to move into an unnatural position. For example, "twisting" one's ankle causes a sprain to the ligaments around the ankle.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a sprain include:

First Aid

First aid steps include:

Aspirin, ibuprofen, or other pain relievers can help. DO NOT give aspirin to children.

Keep pressure off the injured area until the pain goes away. Most of the time, a mild sprain will heal in 7 to 10 days. It may take several weeks for pain to go away after a bad sprain. Your health care provider may recommend crutches. Physical therapy can help you regain motion and strength of the injured area.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Go to the hospital right away or call 911 if:

Call your provider if:

Prevention

The following steps may lower your risk of a sprain:


Review Date: 5/14/2017
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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