AskDefine | Define sprain

Dictionary Definition

sprain n : a painful injury to a joint caused by a sudden wrenching of its ligaments v : twist suddenly so as to sprain; "wrench one's ankle"; "The wrestler twisted his shoulder"; "the hikers sprained their ankles when they fell"; "I turned my ankle and couldn't walk for several days" [syn: twist, wrench, turn, wrick, rick]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The act or result of spraining; lameness caused by spraining; as, a bad sprain of the wrist.


act or result of spraining


  1. To weaken, as a joint, ligament, or muscle, by sudden and excessive exertion, as by wrenching; to overstrain, or stretch injuriously, but without luxation; as, to sprain one's ankle.


to weaken a joint, ligament, or muscle

Extensive Definition

A sprain (from the French espraindre - to wring) is an injury which occurs to ligaments caused by a sudden overstretching (for the muscle injury, see strain). The ligament is usually only stretched, but if it is completely torn, a longer period of immobilization and surgical repair may be necessary.


Although some signs and symptoms can be used to assess the severity of a sprain, the most definitive method is with the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Sprains are graded in four degrees.
  • The first degree is only a minor tear or stretch of a ligament.
  • The second degree is a tear of a ligament, which is usually followed by pain or swelling.
  • The third degree is a complete rupture.
  • The fourth'' degree is the most severe and actually breaks the ligament, along with some small bones if severe enough, and requires surgery to repair.

Signs and symptoms

The typical signs and symptoms associated with a sprain are the cardinal signs of:

Joints involved

Although any joint can experience a sprain, some of the more common include:


Sprains can best be prevented by proper use of safety equipment (wrist, ankle guards), warm-ups and cool-downs (including stretching), being aware of your surroundings and maintaining strength and flexibility. Physical conditioning is the best way to avoid or lessen the degree of sprains.


The first modality for a sprain can be remembered using the acronym R.I.C.E.
  • Rest: The sprain should be rested. No additional force should be applied on site of the sprain. If, for example, the sprain were an ankle sprain, then walking should be kept to a minimum.
  • Ice: Ice should be applied immediately to the sprain to minimize swelling and ease pain. It can be applied for 20-30 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day. Ice can be combined with a wrapping to minimize swelling and provide support.
  • Compression: Dressings, bandages, or ace-wraps should be used to immobilize the sprain and provide support.
  • Elevation: Keeping the sprained joint elevated above heart level will also help to minimize swelling.
Ice and compression (cold compression therapy) will not completely stop swelling and pain, but will help to minimize them as the sprain begins to heal itself. Careful management of swelling is critical to the healing process as additional fluid may pool in the sprained area.


External links

sprain in German: Verstauchung
sprain in Spanish: Esguince
sprain in French: Entorse (médecine)
sprain in Italian: Distorsione (medicina)
sprain in Hebrew: נקע
sprain in Dutch: Verstuiking
sprain in Japanese: 捻挫
sprain in Simple English: Sprain
sprain in Telugu: బెణుకు

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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