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Ligament Sprain, Ambulatory Care

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. A ligament sprain is usually caused by a direct injury or sudden twisting of the joint.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Bruising and the area may feel warm when touched
  • Sudden pain or swelling in the joint
  • Trouble moving the joint
  • Weakness in the injured joint

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Cold or numbness below the injury, such as in your fingers or toes
  • Increased pain, even after taking pain medicine
  • Increased or new swelling
  • Increased weakness

Treatment for a ligament sprain

may include a support device, such as a brace, cast, or splint. These devices limit movement and protect your joint. You may need to use crutches for a lower limb sprain to decrease your pain as you move around. Treatment may also include pain medicine, physical therapy, or surgery if the ligament does not heal.

Care for a ligament sprain:

  • Rest your joint as directed so that it can heal.
  • Apply ice on your joint 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.
  • Use an elastic bandage as directed. An elastic bandage supports your joint and decreases swelling so it can heal. The elastic bandage should be snug but not tight.
  • Elevate your joint above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your joint on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Prevent another ligament sprain:

  • Return to your usual activities as directed. If you start activity too soon, you may develop a more serious injury.
  • Take it slow. Slowly increase how often and how long you exercise. Sudden increases may cause you to overstretch or tear your ligament.
  • Always warm up and stretch before you exercise or play sports.
  • Use the proper equipment. Always wear shoes that fit well and are made for the activity that you are doing. You may need to use ankle supports, elbow and knee pads, or braces.

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.