Alternative MedicinesInfectionInjuries
   Arm or Leg Fractures
   Blunt Chest Injuries
   Blunt and Penetrating Abdominal Injuries
   Cerebral Contusion
   Cold Injuries
   Decompression Sickness
   Dislocated or Fractured Jaw
   Dislocations and Subluxations
   Electric Shock
   Fractured Nose
   Heat Syndrome
   Insect Bites and Stings
   Near Drowning
   Open Trauma Wounds
   Penetrating Chest Wounds
   Perforated Eardrum
   Poisonous Snakebites
   Radiation Exposure
   Rape Trauma Syndrome
   Skull Fractures
   Spinal Injuries
   Sprains and Strains
   Traumatic Amputation
   Whiplash Injuries

Sprains And Strains

A sprain - usually a relatively minor injury - is a complete or incomplete tear in the supporting ligaments surrounding a joint. (A sprained ankle is a common joint injury.)

A strain, which can be acute or chronic, is an injury to a muscle or tendinous attachment. Both injuries usually heal without surgical repair.


A sprain usually follows a sharp twisting motion of the affected joint. An acute strain usually results from vigorous muscle overuse, overstress, or over-stretching of a single muscle or muscle group.


The symptoms of a sprain are typically pain, swelling, and bruising of the affected joint. Symptoms will vary with the intensity of the injury; more significant ligament tears (Grade III injuries) cause an inability to use the affected joint and may lead to joint instability. Less serious injuries (Grade I injuries) may only cause pain with movement.

Diagnostic tests

X-rays rule out fractures and confirm damage to ligaments.


Initial treatment for a sprain or strain includes R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Other treatment options may include:

  • activity restrictions
  • splint/cast
  • crutches/wheelchair
  • physical therapy (to stretch and strengthen the injured muscles, ligaments, and tendons)
  • surgery (especially if the injury is reoccurring or if a muscle, tendon, or ligament is badly torn)

Be sure to consult your child's physician if there is a prolonged, visible deformity of the affected area, or if severe pain prevents use of arm, leg, wrist, ankle, or knee.


Regular stretching and strengthening exercises for your sport, fitness or work activity, as part of an overall physical conditioning program, can help to minimize your risk of sprains and strains. Try to be in shape to play your sport; don't play your sport to get in shape. If you have a physically demanding occupation, regular conditioning can help prevent injuries.

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