Sprains occur when a joint is twisted or turned awkwardly, stretching or tearing the ligament holding the bones together. Ankle sprains are common – as you walk or run on uneven ground or make a quick turn, you can roll your foot inward or, more commonly, outward at the ankle.
Other joints can become sprained by:
Wearing appropriate and well-maintained footwear and sports equipment helps avoid sprains.
A physician examines the injured limb, touching around the sprained area to determine tenderness. Your range of motion is also checked to understand any positions causing pain or discomfort.
A severe sprain may prompt the physician to recommend one or more imaging scans such as X-rays, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scans, or ultrasounds.
Maybe you remember this from a first aid course. It is a good approach for almost any sprain.
R – Rest: avoid using the joint when the activity is painful.
I – Ice*: place an ice pack or put the joint in a slush bath for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat every two to three hours while awake.
C – Compression: Use an elastic bandage to compress the joint, if possible, until the swelling stops. Take care not to bind too tightly and cut off circulation.
E – Elevation – elevate the joint above the level of your heart, especially at night so gravity can help drain excess fluid that causes swelling.
*NOTE – if you suffer from diabetes, decreased sensation, or have vascular disease, speak with a physician before applying ice.
The R-I-C-E approach used for two to three days after the sprain can bring down the swelling and ease the pain discomfort. If under the care of a doctor, follow instructions.