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A sprain (from the French espraindre - to wring) is an injury which occurs to ligaments caused by a sudden over stretching (for the muscle injury, see strain). The ligament is usually only stretched, but if it is completely torn, a longer period of immobilization and surgical repair may be necessary.


Although some signs and symptoms can be used to assess the severity of a sprain, the most definitive method is with the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Sprains are graded in four degrees.

The first degree is only a minor tear or stretch of a ligament.

The second degree is a tear of a ligament, which is usually followed by pain or swelling.

The third degree is a complete rupture.

The fourth degree requires surgery to heal, and is most severe, and actually breaks the ligament, along with some small bones if severe enough.

Signs and symptoms

The typical signs and symptoms associated with a sprain are the cardinal signs of:

Joints involved

Although any joint can experience a sprain, some of the more common include:


Sprains can best be prevented by proper use of safety equipment (wrist, ankle guards), warm-ups and cool-downs (including stretching), being aware of your surroundings and maintaining strength and flexibility. Physical conditioning is the best way to avoid or lessen the degree of sprains.


The first modality for a sprain can be remembered using the mnemonic P.R.I.C.E.[1]

  • Protect: Protect the affected part from further injury.
  • Rest: Stop all activities which cause pain to the sprained area.
  • Ice: Apply ice to the area several times a day, but never for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Protect the skin while preventing the swelling.
  • Compression: Wrap the sprained area to reduce swelling. Cold water will do also.
  • Elevation: Keep the sprained area as close to the level of the heart as is conveniently possible.

The ice and compression (cold compression therapy) will stop the pain and swelling while the injury starts to heal itself. Controlling the swelling and inflammation is critical to the healing process and the icing further restricts fluid leaking into the injured area as well as controlling pain.


External links

de:Verstauchung it:Distorsione (medicina) he:נקע nl:Verstuiking simple:Sprain