What is a Muscle Sprain?

A muscle sprain is a condition, which occurs as a result of tearing or stretching of the ligaments. A person can experience a mild or severe muscle sprain. Tissues which connect two or more bones at a joint are known as ligaments. Some of the examples include knee joint, shoulder joint and ankle joint. Although ligaments are strong, they can get overstretched like rubber bands and when they get overstretched it results in a mild sprain. If the ligaments are torn, then it results in a severe sprain.

Muscle Sprain

Causes of Muscle Sprain

Injuries such as a fall can cause muscle sprain. Sudden twisting of an area of a body, such as occurring while playing sports can also cause muscle sprain.

Signs & Symptoms of Muscle Sprain

Symptoms of a muscle sprain depend on the severity of the injury/sprain and include:

  • Pain and swelling at the site of the muscle sprain.
  • Bruising can also be seen.
  • Patient with sprained muscle will have difficulty in moving the affected joint.
  • A “pop” in the affected joint can be heard or felt.

It is advisable to seek medical attention if you have suffered from a sprain as the pain can also be a result of a fractured or broken bone. Some of the serious symptoms of a muscle sprain, which require prompt medical attention include:

  • Severe pain with inability to bear weight on the injured area.
  • If there is any crookedness or if the injured region has any bumps or lumps in it, which does not look like a normal swelling.
  • If there is redness or red streaks are present in the affected region.
  • If the injured region feels numb.
  • If the patient is not able to move the injured area at all.

Diagnosis of Muscle Sprain

Physical examination of the affected region is done along with taking medical history of the patient. The doctor will gently touch the affected region to check for tenderness and swelling. The limbs and joints may be moved into different positions to determine the exact location of the injury. X-rays can also be taken to check whether there is a bone fracture. MRI scan can help in determining the extent of the injury.

Treatment for Muscle Sprain

Medicines, such as over-the-counter pain killers, which include acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are given to reduce the pain associated with muscle sprain.

The R.I.C.E. (Rest, Icing, Compression, Elevation) formula is also recommended for relief from pain and swelling associated with muscle sprain. It is important to rest and avoid activities, which will aggravate pain and swelling. Ice application to the injured area for about 15-20 minutes every couple of hours also helps in relieving the pain and swelling associated with muscle sprain. Applying compression to the injured area by using bandage, splint or an air cast helps in preventing the swelling. But it is important not to compress it too tightly, as it can hinder with the blood circulation. The injured region should be kept elevated or higher than the level of the heart. This helps in preventing the swelling.

Surgery may be needed in case of a ruptured or torn ligament. After complete healing of muscle sprain has occurred, patient can start on physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the affected muscles and to decrease the chance of re-injury to the sprained muscle.

Healing Time for Muscle Sprain

Healing time for a muscle sprain can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The time taken for a muscle sprain to heal depends on the severity of the injury.

Prevention of Muscle Sprain

  • Following a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight helps in keeping the muscles strong.
  • It is important to do stretching or warm-up exercises before exercising, lifting weights or playing sports to prevent muscle sprain.
  • Always wear protective gear when playing sports.
  • Avoid wearing ill-fitting shoes and replace them when worn out.
  • Never exercise or play sports when you are in pain or are sick or you are tired.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: June 11, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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