What Is a Sprain and How to Tell If You Have One

What is a sprain? This injury occurs when you stretch or tear a ligament. A ligament is a piece of connector tissue that connects bones to a joint. A sprain can be minor, in which case a tear is only partial or the ligament was only over-stretched, but it can also be serious when a ligament is torn completely. If several ligaments are torn or stretched too much, the sprain can be quite debilitating.

What Does a Sprain Feel Like?
The pain of a sprain varies, depending on the severity of the injury. In some cases, people feel a sharp pain, like something snapping, or a painful aching in or near a joint.

Pain will recur whenever you stretch or put pressure on that particular ligament. For example, in the case of an ankle injury, you'll feel pain whenever you twist your ankle a certain way or put pressure on that ligament by walking, leaning, or turning a specific way. The injured area probably won't hurt much when the ligament is not being stretched, so it will not bother you until you move in such a way that applies pressure or pulls on that injured ligament.

Can You See a Sprain?
Sometimes the sprain is significant enough that the ligament and surrounding tissue will swell, turn black and blue and puff up, but many sprains are invisible from the surface. If the ligament actually tears away from the bone or joint, you will see swelling and discoloration; you may be unable to use the joint.

What Body Parts Are Most Vulnerable to Sprains?
A sprain will always take place near a joint in your body since a sprain affects the ligaments connecting the bones to the joints. You will most likely sprain your ankle, foot, shoulder, knee or wrist.

How Can You Prevent a Sprain?
You can prevent a sprain by warming up slowly when exercising, stretching before and after exercise and avoiding sudden twists of joints.

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