A sprain occurs when the ligaments tear or stretch. The ligaments are the fibrous tissues that connect the bones in the joints. A sprain may occur when there is tearing of one or more ligaments. The nature of the injury and the number of ligaments damaged will determine the severity of the sprain.

Symptoms of Sprains

There are some common signs and symptoms of a sprain. These include the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Inability to move the affected joint
  • Instability

The symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the sprain. In some cases there may be a popping sound or sensation when the injury occurs. Your doctor will need to examine the affected area and gather information about your symptoms, so that the extent and severity of the injury can be diagnosed.

The different types of sprains and the symptoms they produce are as follows:

  • Mild Sprain – This occurs when the ligaments tear or overstretch. The joint does not become unstable and there is less pain and swelling. The individuals may have no or little difficulty in moving the affected area.
  • Moderate Sprain – The ligament tears incompletely and there may be swelling, pain and bruising. The individual will not be able to bear any weight on the injured joint. An x-ray will be needed to determine if the swelling and pain is due to a fracture.
  • Severe Sprain – This occurs when the ligament tears or ruptures. It leads to considerable pain, bruising and swelling. The doctor will order an x-ray to determine the location of the fractured bone.

Causes of Sprains

Sprains can occur in any area of the body. An ankle sprain is one of the most common conditions. The joint of the ankle is supported by several ligaments. A sprain usually occurs when the foot twists inwards due to a fall or jerky movements. This is known as an inversion injury. Sprains also commonly occur in the knees and wrists. Some of the causes of sprains include:

  • A fall
  • Walking or running on an uneven surface
  • Wearing high-heeled footwear
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Accidents

There are certain factors that may increase the risk of sprains. These include:

  • Lack of conditioning, which can cause the muscles to weaken and become more vulnerable to injury.
  • Overexertion which can leave the muscles tired. The muscles are then unable to provide sufficient support to the joints and can easily sustain damage.
  • Improper warm-ups before exercise or strenuous physical activity can elevate the risk of injuries. A good warm-up helps to loosen the muscles and enhance their range of motion. This makes them more flexible and less susceptible to injuries.

Remedies for Sprains

It is advisable to consult your doctor when you suffer a sprain. Your doctor will perform a physical examination to check for tenderness and swelling. The severity of the damage can be determined after identifying the location and degree of pain. Your doctor may also move the affected limb or joint to determine which ligament is injured. An x-ray helps to rule out the possibility of a fracture.

The treatment for sprains depends on the severity and location of the injury. Mild sprains can be treated with the help of pain relieving medications. Mild and moderate sprains can be treated with ice compresses to reduce swelling. If you have a severe sprain, your doctor may use a brace or splint to support the injured area. In rare cases surgery may be necessary to repair a torn ligament.

For muscle sprain treatment at home, you can use the RICE method which involves rest, ice, compression and elevation.

  • Rest – Avoid exerting the injured area. Do not engage in activities that trigger swelling and pain. You should, however, get some amount of physical activity to keep the muscle and joints flexible. Talk to your doctor about exercises that are suitable for you.
  • Ice – Place an ice pack on the injured area for about 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this frequently during the day. The ice will help to bring down the swelling and tenderness. Those with diabetes or vascular conditions should consult their doctor before using ice.
  • Compression – Keeping the sprained area compressed with the help of an elastic bandage helps to restrict the swelling. Avoid wrapping the bandage too tightly. In case there is swelling, increasing pain or numbness in the area, loosen the bandage.
  • Elevation – Swelling can be reduced by elevating the affected area. This helps to drain the accumulated fluid. Do this especially at night.

There are several other home remedies for sprains that could help to provide relief from pain and swelling. Some popular home remedies include:

  • Massage the area with garlic oil to reduce inflammation. You can also use almond oil.
  • Combine a teaspoon each of sunflower and camphor oil and rub over the injured area. You can even add a tablespoon of turpentine oil to a couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil and use the solution to treat sprains.
  • Add one egg yolk to olive oil and apply to the area. You can then cover with a cotton pad. Repeat the treatment after a couple of days.
  • Applying black coffee to the affected area is also known to help in healing a sprain.
  • Soak the outer leaves of cabbage in hot water and then wrap around the affected joint. Leave it on for about ten minutes.
  • Place some chopped onion in a muslin cloth and place around the affected area for relief from pain.
  • Add one tablespoon of honey to raw lime powder and apply to the affected area.
  • To restrict swelling and alleviate pain, heat some powdered jaggery in a small amount of clarified butter and apply to the sprained area once it cools slightly.
  • Fenugreek is known to help in treating sprains. Add some lemon juice to fenugreek leaves and grind into a paste.
  • Soak a cloth in hot, soured milk and place over the affected area.
  • Soak a warm towel in warm vinegar and use as a compress to encourage healing of a sprain.

Diet for Sprains

Inflammation occurs as a natural response of the body. It leads to the release of histamine, free radicals, hydrogen peroxide and certain enzymes that cause the tissues to dissolve. This aids in healing, but also results in symptoms of pain, swelling and tenderness. There are certain foods that can hasten the process of healing and thus provide relief from discomfort.

  • Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory antioxidant which helps to reduce swelling and pain. It also restricts histamine and thus relieves inflammation. Turmeric can be added to various foods.
  • Ginger is also an anti-inflammatory agent with powerful antioxidant properties. There have been many studies that support the beneficial effects of powdered ginger root and some of these beneficial effects could help cope with sprains as well. Fresh ginger is also effective. You can consume about 10 grams or ¼ inch slice of fresh ginger.
  • Some studies have found the presence of a certain phenolic compound in olive oil which works well in alleviating inflammation. Olive oil is a good inclusion in the diet because it does not elevate the cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Fish oils contain EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid which is known to restrict the inflammatory response of the body. It is especially helpful in alleviating chronic inflammatory conditions. Fish oil can be obtained from salmon and tuna.
  • Sesamin which is found in sesame oil inhibits the activity of a certain enzyme which is known to help in reducing the symptoms of sprains. It also reduces blood cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure and elevates the levels of vitamin E in the blood.

Antioxidants help to reduce inflammation caused by sprains and also aids in the healing process. The most effective and powerful antioxidants are:

  • Alpha lipoic acid helps to regulate metabolism, control blood sugar levels and protects against cellular damage. This nutrient can be obtained from green leafy vegetables.
  • Flavonoids are beneficial for restricting inflammation. They also help to stabilize collagen which is an important part of the tendons. You can take flavonoid supplements such as grape seed extract.
  • L-glutathione helps to restrict the harmful effects of free radicals. It also detoxifies the enzymes that are produced by the immune system during injury and inflammation. It is available in the form of dietary supplements.
  • Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory phytonutrient that restricts the production of histamine and other substances that are produced during inflammation.
  • Vitamin A aids in skin growth and collagen synthesis. It also helps to protect against the inflammation caused by free radicals.
  • Zinc aids in wound healing and helps to boost immunity.

Suggestions for Sprains

To prevent sprains, it is important to perform regular stretching exercises. Follow a regular physical conditioning program that will you stay in shape and prepare you for sports or physically demanding activities. Aim at strengthening the muscles around the injured joint. Consult your doctor for help in creating an appropriate exercise program.


  1. S Cicerale, LJ Lucas, RSJ Keast, Antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phenolic activities in extra virgin olive oil, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, Volume 23, Issue 2, April 2012, Pages 129-135, ISSN 0958-1669, 10.1016/j.copbio.2011.09.006.
  2. Joseph Charles Maroon, Jeffrey W. Bost, ω-3 Fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain, Surgical Neurology, Volume 65, Issue 4, April 2006, Pages 326-331, ISSN 0090-3019, 10.1016/j.surneu.2005.10.023.

Sprains Treatments - more information
Sprains - Frequently asked questions