by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
A sprain is stretching or tearing of a ligament. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones to each other. Sprains are more common in the ankle, knee, thumb or finger joints, and the shoulder.
A sprain is when a force pushes the bones of a joint apart. If the force is strong enough, the ligament comes apart. This can happen from things like:
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Problems may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how you hurt the joint. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the joint.
It can be hard to tell a sprain from a fracture or dislocation. Pictures may be taken. This can be done with:
Treatment will depend on the joint and how severe the injury is. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. Choices are:
Most sprains are due to accidents. They cannot always be prevented. The risk may be lowered by:
American College of Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Ankle sprain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ankle-sprain . October 12, 2020.
Derry S, Moore RA, et al. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2015;(6):CD007402.
Sprained ankle. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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October 12, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
Last Updated: 10/12/2020
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