A sprain is caused by tearing or stretching of ligaments, the fibrous tissue that connects your bones to one another and keeps your joints in place. The injury is most common at the wrist, ankle or knee, and can happen as a result of falling, getting hit or twisting. Sometimes, you might hear a popping or tearing sound when it occurs. Many athletes experience sprains, sometimes as a result of overuse and pushing too hard, or from not warming up or stretching enough. Some sprains are simply accidental.

Symptoms of a sprain

As soon as you have an injury like a sprain, it’s important to stop what you’re doing immediately. Any further activity can make the injury worse and could cause long-term damage and a longer recovery period.

Signs of a sprain appear very quickly and may include:

  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Inability to move at the joint
  • Sensitivity in the injured area

Treatment options for sprains

Sprains are usually treatable at home with the RICE formula: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You may also benefit from pain-relieving medication, such as ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory. If your injury gets worse, or you see no improvement after using RICE, you might need a doctor to assess your condition.

Main Line Health offers orthopaedic doctors to quickly evaluate, diagnose your injury and develop a personalized treatment plan. Our experts will start with a physical examination and review of your medical history. Your doctor may recommend certain tests to rule out breaks, fractures, clotting and other potential complications. You may have an X-ray, MRI or CT scan, and in some cases, physical therapy may be part of your treatment and recovery. In rare instances, when nonsurgical methods have not resolved your injury, surgery may be needed.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.