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
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.