A sprain is an injury to the ligaments in a joint. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another to form the joints. When a ligament is injured, it can be stretched, partially torn, or completely torn.
Sprains are usually caused by a sudden activity that twists, tears, or stretches a ligament, like a fall or something hitting you.
Symptoms may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you. You may have X-rays or other scans.
You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until the ligament has healed.
Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal. A splint, brace, or sling can help keep the injured area from moving while it heals.
If the sprain is severe, you may need surgery to repair or rebuild torn ligaments.
The pain often gets better within a few weeks with self-care, but some injuries may take several months or longer to heal. It’s important to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions.
To reduce swelling and pain for the first few days after the injury:
Follow your healthcare provider's instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Most sprains happen from accidents that cannot be prevented. However, warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries.
Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport.