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Sprains

What is a sprain?

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments, the tough tissue that surrounds joints and holds bones in their places. Often, a sprain results from a sudden twisting or wrenching movement – one that forces the joint beyond its normal range of motion.  The ligaments may then stretch, tear, or even dislocation your joint from its normal position.  

A stretched or partially torn ligament is less serious than a complete tear.  Your joint will appear bruised soon after the initial injury.  Even with pain and swelling, you may still have some use of your joint.

With a complete tear, you will experience severe pain, swelling and bruising, and will not be able to use your joint.  A complete tear will take longer to heal than a partially torn ligament. 

When you dislocate a joint, the ligaments are stretched so severely that the nearby bones actually move out of place. Again, there is usually pain, swelling and bruising.

How will it heal?

Once your joint is immobilized with an elastic bandage, splint or cast,  the ligaments can heal together – sometimes surgery may be required for the ligaments to be placed properly.

In the first stage of healing, cells gather at the site of the injury and “clean up”  the damaged tissue, allowing new tissue to form.

Next, cells called fibroblasts line up and bridge the gap between the torn pieces of ligament. The fibroblasts produce a substance called collagen, which forms the backbone of a new ligament.

Finally, the old and new collagen fibers become intertwined and the fibroblasts disappear.  The ligament is then strengthened through use and exercise.  

How can I help it to heal faster?

The doctor will outline what you need to do to help your sprain heal faster – depending on the severity of your injury , you may have to wear an elastic bandage, splint, sling or even a cast. All of these devices are designed to limit your mobility, allowing the healing process to  proceed with re-injuring the delicate tissue.   Keep your injury elevated whenever possible, to alleviate pain and swelling.  Above all, rest! Though it may be tempting to push yourself, rest your joint for as long as the doctor advises.

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