Sprains are very common injuries that affect the ligaments. They normally occur when playing sport or if you fall awkwardly or have contact with an object or person.

Ligaments are strong bands of tissue around joints that connect bone to one another. A sprain happens when one or more ligaments have been stretched, twisted or torn.

Common locations of a sprain are: Knees, ankles, wrists and thumbs.

In This Section


Symptoms include:

  • Pain around affected joint
  • Inability to put weight on joint or mobilize normally
  • Swelling, bruising and tenderness

Self-care: How to treat a sprain

Minor sprains can be treated with self-care techniques like PRICE Therapy:

  • PROTECTION: prevent further injury with protection and support
  • REST: stop the activity that caused the injury and avoid that activity for 48-72 hours or as soon as it is not too painful to do so
  • ICE: apply to the affected area
  • COMPRESSION: compress or bandage the injured area to limit any swelling and movement that could cause further damage. You can get elasticated tubular bandage from a pharmacy
  • ELEVATION: keep the injured limb elevated to prevent or reduce swelling

Things to remember

For the first 72 hours after a sprain you should avoid:

  • Running – avoid activity as it can cause further damage.
  • Massage – which may increase bleeding and swelling.
  • Paracetamol can be used to help ease any pain; stronger medication can be prescribed in the pain is severe.
  • Heat – like hot baths, saunas or heat packs.
  • Alcohol – alcohol will increase bleeding and swelling.

  If you have sprained your ankle, avoid driving until strength and mobility have returned.

Oral NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like Ibuprofen, can help reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. However avoid NSAIDs in the first 48 hours after injury because they can prevent the body’s natural way of healing.


You will not usually need to have an X-ray if you have a sprain unless:

  • You are unable to put any weight on your ankle, foot or leg
  • The bone is painful at specific points on you ankle, foot or leg
  • You have difficulty moving you knee

Surgery is rarely carried out for sprains because it is unclear whether it is any more effective that less invasive treatments

When to see a GP:

  • The pain is severe
  • You cannot move the injured joint
  • You cannot weight bare
  • The area looks crooked or has lumps
  • There is numbness, discoloration or coldness on the injured area

You can find out more about sprains from this NHS sources. Click here.

Word from our GP

 There is so much you can do to treat a sprain yourself without rushing to see you GP or going to A&E. Apply ice as quickly as you can after an injury has occurred!

Dr Justine Dawkins, Riversalde Surgery.