Sprains occur when you stretch or tear your ligaments, the fibrous bands of tissue that connect two bones in your joints. When it comes to sprains, there are two common mistakes patients make. For starters, many people use the terms sprain and strain interchangeably. But sprains affect ligaments while strains affect muscles. This misconception leads to the next common mistake that surrounds sprains. Many patients think they can “walk it off” when they get an injury. The truth is that sprains should be taken seriously. Without treatment, sprains can lead to chronic discomfort, disability, re-injury, and early arthritis.
Sprains usually happen when you fall, twist, or hit your body in a way that forces it out of its normal position. If you think you have a sprain, University Urgent Care is here to teach you how to take care of it until you have time to come in for a visit. Let’s take a look at what you should do if you think you have a sprain. We’ll discuss critical first-aid tips and long-term methods to support recovery and get you back on your feet without complications.
How Do Sprains Happen?
Sprains happen when a person falls, twists their body the wrong way, or hits themselves in a way that forces the body out of its normal position. The most common type of sprain is a sprained ankle. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, an estimated 28,000 ankle injuries occur every day in the United States.
Most sprains occur during sporting activities, especially in contact sports like football, hockey, and boxing. Several other risk factors lead to sprains in patients. This type of injury can happen at the gym, at home, or in the workplace. Signs and symptoms vary greatly based on the severity of your injury. The most common include:
- Limited mobility
- Hearing or feeling a “pop” in your joint at the time of the injury
While sprains can occur anywhere in the body where ligaments exist, here are the most common causes and places of sprains:
- Ankle sprains are caused by walking, running, or exercising on an uneven surface. They can also occur from landing awkwardly when jumping or skipping.
- Knee sprains occur when you pivot improperly, usually from turning, stepping, or twisting the wrong way.
- Wrist sprains occur when from repeated movements or landing the wrong way on your hand.
- Thumb sprains occur from injuries or overextension. They are most common in racquet sports such as tennis.
Risk factors that contribute to a higher occurrence of sprains in patients include:
- Environmental conditions such as slippery or uneven surfaces that leave you susceptible to injury.
- Fatigue, or tired muscles, that makes it challenging to provide proper support for your joints. Being tired can also leave you more likely to succumb to forces that could put stress on your joints.
- Inadequate equipment, ill-fitting footwear, and improperly maintained sports equipment could also contribute to your risk of a sprain.
At-Home Care and Prevention Methods for Sprains
If you think you’ve sprained something, it’s essential to treat the injury right away. Take the following steps to manage your injury immediately:
- Avoid putting any weight on the joint.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your injury elevated to reduce swelling.
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, to alleviate pain and swelling.
- Use a temporary brace or ACE bandage to support the joint and prevent it from moving the wrong way.
At-home treatment should focus on self-care. Healthcare professionals advise patients to follow the RICE method to care for your sprain at home. Let’s break it down:
- Rest, rest, rest! Stay off of your injury as much as possible.
- Ice the injury. Apply ice for 20 minutes every 1-2 hours during the first 24 hours following your injury. Continue with ice packs 3-4 times a day in the two days following your injury, then as needed for pain and swelling while you recover.
- Compression use can help reduce swelling. Wrap your injury with an elastic bandage or use a compression sock or sleeve to minimize inflammation.
- Elevate your injury with a pillow. To reduce swelling, you should elevate the injury above your heart.
In many cases, sprains can be prevented. Especially if you have some of the risk factors that leave you more susceptible to sprains, the following prevention methods can help lower your risk:
- Follow a healthy diet. Keep your body strong and balanced.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Practice recommended safety measures to prevent falls.
- Wear properly fitted shoes.
- Replace athletic shoes or equipment as they become worn.
- Stretch and warm-up, as advised, before physical exertion.
- Avoid physical activity when tired, in pain, or injured.
- Do not run, walk, or exercise on uneven surfaces.
- If you’ve sustained a sprain, follow the doctor’s instructions carefully to avoid re-injury.
- Use a brace when exercising or playing sports if you have had an injury.
Visit University Urgent Care for Medical Treatment
If you’ve sustained an injury that might be a sprain, it’s critical to get checked by a medical professional. Our compassionate, knowledgeable team of nurse practitioners is here to address all your urgent care needs. When you arrive at our facility, your injury will be examined. Our board-certified nurses will check for points of tenderness, evaluate your range of motion, and identify any points of pain or discomfort. If your injury is severe, you may need to get one of the following imaging scans:
- X-Ray to rule out bone fractures.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to check the soft internal structures of the body, including the ligaments.
- CT Scan to evaluate different angles of the injury.
- Ultrasound to determine the extent of your condition and the effect on your ligament or tendons.
In addition to the at-home treatments listed above, our team may determine you need to follow up with a physical therapist or rehabilitation program. This will help improve your condition and restore the function of your injured body part. You may also be given a splint or crutches, depending on the location and severity of your injury. Severe sprains can lead to tears in the ligaments, which may require surgery. That’s why the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons recommends that anyone who displays signs and symptoms of a sprain see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Stop by University Urgent Care 7 days a week from 10 AM- 8 PM if you need urgent care services. We’re here to provide immediate, non-emergency medical care to university students and anyone near the TCU campus in Fort Worth, TX. You can make an appointment online today. For more information, give us a call at (817) 439- 9539. We’ll have you back on your feet in no time!