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A sprain is an injury to a ligament caused by excessive stretching. The ligament can have tears in it, or it can be completely torn. Sprained ligaments swell rapidly and are painful. Generally, the greater the pain, the more severe the injury. For most minor sprains you can probably treat the injury yourself.

Remember the following instructions: P.R.I.C.E.

  1. PROTECT the injured limb from further injury by not using the joint. You can do this using anything from splints to crutches.
  2. REST the injured limb. But do not avoid all activity. Even with an ankle sprain, you can usually still exercise other muscles to prevent de-conditioning.
  3. ICE the area. Use a cold pack, a slush bath or a compression sleeve filled with cold water to help limit swelling after an injury. Try to apply ice as soon as possible after the injury. If you use ice, be careful not to use it for too long, as this could cause tissue damage.
  4. COMPRESS the area with an elastic wrap or bandage. Compressive wraps or sleeves made from elastic or neoprene are best.
  5. ELEVATE the injured limb whenever possible to help prevent or limit swelling. After the first two days, gently begin using the injured area. You should feel a gradual, progressive improvement.

Get emergency medical assistance if:

  1. You heard a popping sound when your joint was injured, you can’t use the joint or you feel unstable when you try to bear weight on the joint. This may mean the ligament was completely torn. On the way to the doctor apply a cold pack.
  2. You have a fever higher than 100 F and the area is red and hot.
  3. You are not improving after the first two or three days.

The above information was obtained from