A sprain occurs when you tear or stretch a tendon. It is an extremely common injury and most often occurs in the ankle.
- Pain and swelling in the area of the injury
- Difficulty moving the injured joint
Most often, a sprain can be treated at home, without visiting a doctor. Treatment includes a method abbreviated as RICE:
- Rest: Take pressure off of the injured area as soon as possible. Resting the joint will help. Avoid texting, writing, or typing if the sprain is in your hand or wrist. Use crutches and avoid walking long distances if the sprain is in your leg/ankle area. When walking you should wear shoes that offer support, such as sneakers or boots.
- Ice: Icing the injury will help the irritation and swelling go down. Wrap an ice pack or cold compress in a towel, then apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes. You should apply ice as many times as possible during the day, aiming for every 3 hours. Do this for the first 2 days of the injury.
- Compression: An ACE bandage, or even athletic tape, can help with a sprain. Wrapping the area will help provide support and minimize swelling. You can tape sprained fingers and toes together to help with the sprains.
- Elevation: Elevating the sprain will help with swelling. If you’ve sprained your ankle, keep it rested on a thick pillow or footstool.
Also if you do not have an allergy you can use over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) as needed.
Once ankle pain and swelling has improved you should start gentle range-of-motion exercises such making as foot circles or spelling the alphabet with your big toe in the air.
When to Seek Medical Attention
While most sprains can be taken care of with the steps listed above, see your doctor if:
- There is numbness in the sprained area.
- You can’t walk more than a few steps without extreme pain.
- You can’t move or bend the sprained joint.
Causes & Prevention
Sprains are extremely common injuries and can be caused by overuse of the muscle or tendon, falling, or tripping. You can get a sprain by simply turning on your foot wrong, or overextending a joint/muscle. To prevent a sprain:
- Stretch regularly before and after exercise.
- Engage in exercises that strengthen your ankles.
- Wear shoes that offer support.