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    Joint sprain

    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.


    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 of a sprain include:

    • Joint pain or muscle pain
    • Swelling
    • Joint stiffness
    • Discoloration of the skin, especially bruising

    First Aid

    • Apply iceright awayto reduce swelling. Wrap the ice in cloth. Do not place ice directly on the skin.
    • Wrap a bandage around the affected area to limit movement. Wrapfirmly, but not tightly. Use a splint if needed.
    • Keep the swollen joint raised above your heart, even while sleeping.
    • Rest the affected joint for several days.

    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 7-10 days. It may take several weeks for pain to go away after a bad sprain.Yourhealth care providermay recommend crutches. Physical therapycan help you regain motion and strength of the injured area.

    Go to the hospital right away or call 911 if:

    • You think you have a broken bone.
    • The joint appears out of position.
    • You have a serious injury or severe pain.
    • You hear a popping sound and have immediate problems using the joint.

    Call your health care provider if:

    • Swelling does not start to go away within 2 days.
    • You have symptoms of infection, including red, warm, painful skin or a fever over 100°F.
    • The pain does not go away after several weeks.


    The following steps may lower your risk of a sprain:

    • Wear protective footwear during activities that place stress on your ankle and other joints.
    • Make sure that shoes fit your feet properly.
    • Avoid high-heeled shoes.
    • Always warm-up and stretchbefore doingexercise and sports.
    • Avoid sports and activities for which you have not trained.


    Biundo JJ. Bursitis, tendinitis, and other periarticular disorders and sports medicine.In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 271.

    Brinker MR, O’Connor DP, Almekinders LC, et al. Physiology of Injury to Musculoskeletal Structures: 1. Muscle and Tendon Injury. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 1, section A.


    • Early treatment of injur...


    • Ankle sprain - series


      • Early treatment of injur...


      • Ankle sprain - series


      Self Care

        Review Date: 4/13/2013

        Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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        St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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