WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A ligament sprain happens when a ligament is stretched or torn. Ligaments are tough tissues that connect bones. Ligaments support your joints and keep your bones in place. They allow you to lift, lower, or rotate your arms and legs. A ligament sprain may involve one or more ligaments.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine may decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your primary healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions on it before using this medicine.
- Pain medicine: You may be given a doctor's order for medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
You may need an elastic bandage, splint, brace, or cast to limit your movement and protect your joint. You may need to use crutches if your ligament sprain is in your leg. This will help decrease your pain as you move around. Use these devices as directed.
Care for your ligament sprain:
- Rest: Rest your joint so that it can heal. Return to normal activities as directed.
- Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on your injured ligament for 15 to 20 minutes every hour. Use the ice for as long as directed.
- Compress: Ask your primary healthcare provider if you should wrap an elastic bandage around your injured ligament. An elastic bandage provides support and helps decrease swelling and movement so your joint can heal.
- Elevate: Keep your injured area raised above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease or limit swelling. Elevate the injured area by resting it on pillows.
Prevent another ligament sprain:
Regular exercise can strengthen your muscles and help prevent another injury. Do the following before you begin or return to regular exercise or sports training:
- Ask your primary healthcare provider: Find out how long your ligament needs to heal. Do not do any physical activity until he says it is okay. If you start activity too soon, you may develop a more serious injury.
- Always warm up: Always warm up and stretch before your regular exercise, sport, or physical activity.
- Take it slow: Slowly increase how often and how long you exercise or train. Sudden increases in how often you train may cause you to overstretch or tear your ligament.
- Use the right equipment: Always wear shoes that fit well and are made for the activity that you are doing. You may also use ankle supports, elbow and knee pads, or braces.
You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.
Follow up with your primary healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Contact your primary healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- You have questions or concerns about condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- The area below the injury, such as fingers or toes, are cold or numb.
- Your joint becomes more weak or unstable (wobbly).
- Your pain has increased or returned, even after taking pain medicine.
- Your swelling has increased or returned.
- Your symptoms are not getting better.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.