Don’t Treat Severe Sprains on Your Own

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDJanuary 2nd, 2020

Muscle strains, pulls and tears vary in severity, but always cause some degree of discomfort and disruption to your day. In most cases you can heal with time, exercise and stretches, but in other cases severe strains may need prompt medical treatment.

What is a Sprain?

A sprain is an injury to the ligament connecting two or more bones to a joint. While ankle sprains are most common, sprains in other joints such as knees, elbows, shoulders, and are also frequent.

There are three levels of severity for sprains:

  1. A first degree (or mild) sprain occurs when the ligament has been stretched, but has not actually torn. This can also be used to describe minor tears affecting less than a third of the fibers in the ligament.
  2. A second degree (or moderate) sprain means a portion of the ligament (generally at least a third of the fibers) has torn. It’s sometimes referred to as a partial rupture or partial tear. At this level, the joint is still relatively stable.
  3. A third degree (or severe) sprain happens when the ligament has ruptured completely. A complete rupture can cause complete instability of the joint.

For mild injuries, often rest and time are all that is needed, though icing and elevating the joint could also be helpful in reducing swelling. If the injury is particularly painful, or you’re unsure of the extent of the damage, it’s best to seek medical help. Severe sprains are best treated by a healthcare professional, and in some extreme cases may require surgical correction.

How to Tell if a Sprain Warrants Medical Attention

There are several symptoms to watch for in order to detect a particularly bad sprain. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe bruising or pain
  • The joint appears to be out of shape rather than just swollen
  • Loss of circulation beyond the injury
  • Joint cannot bear weight
  • Symptoms and swelling do not improve after a few days

Additionally, if you suspect a bone may be fractured or broken or you’re concerned about the severity of the swelling or pain, it’s often best to seek medical help to rule out further trauma.

Woman with injured arm receiving care in the comfort of her own home.

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Get Medical Care Delivered to Your Home

If you suspect a sprain needs medical intervention, the last thing you may want to do is drive to a local clinic when it can be painful to leave your bed or couch. You could call an ambulance, but the cost of an ER visit can be higher than many people want to pay. Better yet, stay where you are and request a team of medical professionals to come to you.

DispatchHealth’s qualified medical teams can evaluate your injury and provide expert medical advice to help you recover and heal quickly and completely. Additionally, they can help treat your sprain with splints, ace wraps, air casts, ice packs, knee immobilizers and they’ll help you arrange for x-rays or further testing if needed.

So the next time you’re injured during trauma season, or any other time of the year, skip the ER. Get your medical care delivered at a place that’s most convenient for you, and get on the road to recovery faster and with

Woman having arm wrapped in bandage by DispatchHealth medical staff

Woman having arm wrapped in bandage by DispatchHealth medical staff


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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