Sprains: Degrees and Treatment

There are three different degrees of sprain. Let's take a look at them in detail and see how they're treated.
Sprains: Degrees and Treatment

Last update: 09 May, 2020

Today, we’re going to tackle the infamous topic of sprains. Whether you play sports or not, it’s almost impossible that you don’t know what a sprain is, you’ve probably even had one yourself. In this article, we’ll look at the different degrees of a sprain, what they mean, and how you can recover.

Types of sprains

Before we start, it’s important to stress that a sprain is an injury suffered by the ligaments. This means that sprains can happen anywhere where there are ligaments, not just in your ankle.

Ligaments connect bones and guide movement, setting the limits of what you can do with your limbs. As a result, the most common cause of injury is sudden, strong tension. The tension exceeds what the tissue can withstand and the ligament gives way, causing an injury.

The degree or severity of the sprain depends on how badly the ligament is affected and whether or not it involves other structures.

Sprains: grade one

Grade one sprains are the ‘least bad’. If you’ve suffered a grade one sprain, it means that the ligament has just been strained. It’s stretched a little more than normal, but no other structures have been broken or affected.

In this case, there will be some pain of varying intensity and swelling around ​​the injury, but you’ll still be able to make normal movements. With a grade one sprain in the ankle, you’ll still be able to walk but with some pain.

Treatment will consist of applying a cold compress to the area as soon as possible, elevating the affected area, and trying to rest it completely for 24 hours. After 24 hours, it’ll be a good idea to carry out some exercises to strengthen the soft tissues.

A woman holding her ankle because she has a sprain.

Grade two

A grade two sprain is more serious. In this case, the ligament has suffered either a total or partial rupture. In other words, you’ve overdone it so much that you’ve broken the fibers in the ligament.

The symptoms with respect to grade one sprain will obviously be different. You’ll feel much greater pain and won’t be able to move the joint properly. You’ll probably have some bruising or redness around the area. If you’ve sprained your knee ligaments, you’ll have to limp to get around and the broken fibers will release blood.

As for treatment, as well as the measures for grade one sprain, you’ll also have to take anti-inflammatories and possibly also an analgesic if the pain is very intense.

Furthermore, while you’ll be able to get back to normal in about a week after a grade one sprain, the recovery time for a grade two sprain is significantly longer.

It’ll also be a good idea to use a splint or external support at the beginning of your recovery. This will ensure that the joint is supported and the ligament doesn’t have to bear 100 percent of the work involved.

You shouldn’t start any recovery work until the second or third day. After this time, your physiotherapist will recommend a routine to strengthen your muscles, improve your joint mobility, and work on your balance. You’ll need to gradually raise the intensity of these exercises. You probably won’t make a full recovery that allows you to return to normal until about four weeks later.

Grade three sprains

A grade three sprain is the most serious one. As well as completely tearing the ligament, there will probably be some joint dislocation. If the force was enough to rupture the ligament, the joint will be unprotected and the bone would’ve been allowed to move abnormally.

A woman clutching a sprained knee.

In this case, the pain will obviously be very intense and you won’t be able to move the joint normally. The joint will move abnormally and there will be a large bruise.

Treatment consists of three stages. In the first stage, you’ll need to completely rest the affected area, raise it, apply ice, compress it, and take anti-inflammatories and analgesics.

During the second stage, it’s common for the area to be prevented from moving with a cast for three or four weeks. Then you’ll have to wear a functional bandage for another two weeks while you begin recovery.

Surgical treatment is also an option, but it’s usually only for elite athletes, people who have recurrent sprains, or if other structures need to be repaired. From there, you’ll need a course of physiotherapy to fully recover.

The minimum recovery period will be for two months. From then on, you’ll be able to live a normal life. However, a full recovery will take longer depending on the severity of your injury, the recovery method, and which other structures were damaged.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.