A sprain happens when the ligaments, which are strong bands of tissue connecting bones in joints, are stretched or torn. This is different from a strain, which is when a muscle is stretched, pulled or torn where it attaches to a bone. Sprains directly affect the joint involved and can range in severity from a stretched ligament to a partially or completely torn one.

The top three locations for sprains are:

  • Ankle sprains: Occur when the foot twists inward during running, turning, or jumping and then lands on the ankle.
  • Knee sprains: Typically result from a blow to the knee or a fall, and sudden twisting movements of the knee can also cause a sprain.
  • Wrist sprains: Frequently happen when someone falls and lands on their hand with an outstretched arm.

The severity of a sprain depends on the degree of the sprain and how many ligaments are involved. Initial treatment for a sprain includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. Mild sprains can be treated at home successfully, but severe sprains may require surgery to repair torn ligaments.

It is important to distinguish between a sprain and a strain because they require different treatments. While a sprain involves ligament damage, a strain involves damage to the muscle. By identifying the injury correctly, the appropriate treatment can be given to help with the healing process.


The extent of the damage may affect the signs and symptoms. They could consist of:

  • Pain
  • Swelling or inflammation of the joint
  • Bruising
  • Limited range of motion in the injured joint
  • Instabilities, particularly at weight-bearing joints like the ankle or knee.
  • At the time of the injury, hearing or sensing a “pop” in the joint

Home treatment can be used to treat minor sprains. However, the same injury that result in sprains can also result in more severe injuries like fractures. If a patient has discomfort directly over the bones of an injured joint, they are unable to move or bear weight on the injured joint or has numbness in any region of the wounded area, they should consult healthcare provider.


Direct or indirect injuries (trauma) that misaligns the joint, overextends it, and occasionally tears the supporting ligaments results in a sprain. A sprain can result from various injuries, for instance:

  • Activities: Running, walking, sudden change of direction, or working out on a rough surface, coming down suddenly from a jump could affect the ankle or knee.
  • Wrist: Landing during a fall on an outstretched hand.
  • Thumb: Tennis or other racquet sports injuries from skiing or overextension.

Children are more prone to get a fracture than a sprain because the ligaments around a joint are frequently stronger than these growth plates. Around the ends of their bones, children have soft tissue portions called growth plates. The severity of sprains can be classified as follows:

  • Mild sprains: involve only a slight stretching of the ligaments.
  • Moderate sprains: result from a combination of stretching and partial tearing of the ligament.
  • Severe sprains: occur when the ligament is completely torn.

Risk factors

There is a risk of sprain for everyone, regardless of age or physical activity. Certain factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing a sprain, such as:

  • Fatigue: When your muscles are fatigued, they are less capable of providing adequate support for your joints, which increases the risk of joint stress from external forces. Additionally, tiredness can make you more susceptible to such forces.
  • Weight: The risk increases if the patient is overweight, or they have poor physical condition.
  • Environmental: Uneven or slippery surfaces might increase the risk of injury.
  • Poor equipment: The risk of sprains might be increased by wearing improperly fitting or poorly maintained shoes or other athletic gear.