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Leg Sprain, Ambulatory Care

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. Sprains mainly occur with twisting, falling, or blunt force injuries. 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 immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Cold or numbness below the injury, such as in your toes
  • Decreased or loss of movement in your injured leg
  • Increased pain, even after taking pain medicine
  • Red skin streaks near your injury

Treatment for a leg sprain

may include pain medicine and physical therapy. Treatment may also include a support device, such as a brace, cast, or splint. These devices limit movement and protect further injury.

Care for a leg sprain:

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.