Open Accessibility Menu

When to See a Doctor for a Sprain: Signs and Symptoms You Can't Ignore

A sprain is a common injury sustained while doing daily tasks or engaging in sports. A sprain occurs when the ligaments, which are tough bands of tissue connecting bones to one another, are stretched or torn. The most frequent sprain sites are the ankle, knee and wrist.

A sprain can range from mild to severe. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a sprain is crucial to treat the injury properly. It will also tell you when to seek professional medical help and when home remedies are sufficient.

Symptoms of a Sprain

The most common reason for a sprain is an awkward movement or fall. This can happen when playing sports, doing everyday activities or even walking on uneven ground. You may hear a “pop” when the ligament is first injured.

After the initial injury, you will likely experience pain, swelling and bruising around the joint. The joint may also feel stiff and difficult to move. In more severe cases, there may also be numbness or tingling.

At-Home Sprain Treatments

If you think you have twisted a ligament, it is vital to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor can properly assess the damage and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

There are some steps you can do at home to help manage the pain and swelling. Here are five sprain treatments:

  1. Compression: Use a bandage to wrap the injured joint gently. Be sure not to wrap it too tightly, as this could cause additional pain or numbness.
  2. Elevation: Try to prop up the joint on a pillow when sitting or lying down.
  3. Ice: Apply ice to the injured joint for at least 10 minutes at a time (but no longer than 20 minutes) several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin — wrap it in a towel first.
  4. Protection: Protect the injured joint from further harm. This means avoiding activities that stress the area, such as sports or strenuous exercise.
  5. Rest: Try to keep your weight off the injured joint.

When to See a Doctor

While a sprain can be a painful injury, most will heal with time and home treatment. However, it is important to be aware of the signs that indicate you need to see a doctor.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical help right away:

  • Discharge from the wound
  • Numbness or tingling persists or gets worse
  • Obvious deformity in the joint
  • Pain is severe and does not improve with home treatment
  • Skin around the joint is discolored or has open sores
  • Swelling does not improve after two days
  • Unable to move or put weight on the joint

Fully Recovering from a Sprain with UF Health

A sprain is a common injury, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Seek professional medical attention if you think you have sprained a ligament. Doing so will ensure you receive the proper diagnosis and treatment.

The team at UF Health can help you fully recover from your sprain and get back to your normal activities. Come by any of our three emergency and urgent care centers in Jacksonville, Fla., for treatment.