A sprain may be caused from a fall, twisting a joint or by an impact force that puts the joint out of its normal position. The damage may cause ligaments around a joint to either stretch or tear. Common sprain injuries are caused from falling on your hand which could sprain the thumb or wrist, a sideways rotation of the ankle or foot and a possible impact to the side of the knee; often in sports these occur from over reaching, landing awkwardly, colliding with another person or suddenly changing direction at speed. There is an increased risk of a sprain in sports from poor conditioning, poor technique, inadequate warm up and fatigue.
Signs and symptoms of a sprain is pain, swelling, bruising and a loss of function with the injured joint. At the time of injury, some people can feel a pop or tear as the damage occurs.
Sprains can be categorised as mild, where only slight stretching and damage occurs to the ligament, moderate or severe;
- Mild – This is when only slight stretching and damage occurs to the ligament, and this may take within 5 to 14 days to heal.
- Moderate – In a moderate sprain the ligament may have partial tearing making the joint unstable and may take 4 to 6 weeks to heal.
- Severe – Severe sprains have a complete tear of the ligament and can take 8 to 12 weeks to heal.
Complications and the need for surgery can dramatically increase the time a sprain takes to heal but an effective rehabilitation program can also dramatically reduce the healing time.
For immediate treatment of a sprain the acronym “R.I.C.E.” can be used;
- “R” Rest the injured limb.
- “I” Ice; apply ice to the injury site.
- “C” Compression; a specially designed brace or bandage can be used to help immobilise the joint and reduce swelling through careful compression.
- “E” Elevate the limb which has the injury to again help reduce the swelling.
Soft Tissue Therapy administered appropriately on and around the injury site can greatly reduce recovery time.