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A leg sprain
is an injury that occurs when your ligaments are forced to stretch beyond their normal range. Ligaments are tough tissues that support joints, and connect and keep bones in place. Mild sprains may take up to 6 weeks to heal. Severe sprains can take up to 12 months to heal.
Common symptoms include the following:
- Inability to put weight on your leg
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling
- Muscle spasms
Seek care immediately if:
- You have severe pain that does not go away.
- Red streaks appear near your injury.
- You have numbness or a loss of movement in your injured leg.
Call your doctor if:
- Your pain or swelling worsens, or does not improve with treatment.
- You have a fever, redness, swelling, or warmth around your injury.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Treatment for a leg sprain
may include physical therapy and a support device, such as a brace, cast, or splint. These devices limit movement and protect further injury. You may also need any of the following:
- Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
- Rest your leg for up to 2 days to help it heal. Use crutches as directed to take weight off your leg while it heals.
- Apply ice on your leg for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
- Compress your injured leg as directed with an elastic bandage for support. You may need a splint if your sprain is severe. Wear your splint for as many days as directed.
- Elevate your injured leg by lying down and resting it on pillows that are higher than your heart. This should be done as often as you can for at least 2 days to reduce swelling.
- Exercise your leg as directed to improve your strength and help decrease stiffness. The exercises and physical therapy can help restore strength and increase the range of motion in your leg. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities or play sports.
Prevent another leg sprain:
- Warm up, cool down, and stretch before and after you exercise. This may help ease your body into activity, and prevent another injury.
- Wear protective equipment for activities. This will prevent another injury.
- Wear shoes that fit well. Replace your shoes when the tread or heels are worn down.
- Do not exercise when you are tired or in pain. You are more likely to become injured if your body is not rested.
- Make the places you walk safer. Keep your pathways clear of objects so you do not trip over them. Pour salt on driveways and walkways in the winter to help prevent you from slipping on ice.
- Run and walk on flat surfaces. Bumpy or curvy paths put you at risk for another injury.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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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.
Learn more about Leg Sprain (Ambulatory Care)
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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.