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Sprain, injury to a ligament (which connects bone to bone in a joint). The symptoms are rapid swelling and inflammation and some initial pain and stiffness around a joint. Swelling and pain seem worse 24 to 48 hours after injury occurs. Discoloration and limitation in motion and function may also take place.

A ligament is like a rope that, when stretched beyond resting length, is susceptible to injury, and with a severe enough force it may be torn apart. This usually occurs when turning and twisting are involved, especially very quick, sudden motions that twist the joint. The disability depends on the degree of damage. It can be as minor as swelling and inflammation only, causing minimal discomfort, or as severe as a rupture of the ligament(s).

Treatment is with cold compresses (not heat) after the injury occurs and elevation of the injured joint, if possible. The joint should be immobilized and a compression wrap used. If quite painful, inflamed, or swollen, a doctor should be consulted. Some sprains resolve themselves with rest and immobility, while others require splinting, casting, or bracing. With very serious sprains, surgical repair may be required.

See also: Ligament.

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