Signs and symptoms

A sprain causes pain which is sometimes severe, swelling, tenderness, decreased movement of the joint and internal bleeding. A mild or moderate sprain generally can be suspected if a joint is tender after it has been twisted or overextended.

Because dislocations produce a visible malformation, they are seldom missed. Furthermore, the inability to use the joint is an obvious sign of a dislocation. Fractures of the bones of the joint cannot be ruled out without X rays.

Home care

A dislocation should not be treated at home. Minor sprains, particularly of the fingers, toes, and ankles, may be treated safely at home by immobilizing the hand or foot involved and then resting it. The sprained part should be kept elevated. Cold compresses applied for one to four hours after injury help minimize swelling. Aspirin or paracetamol will temporarily relieve the pain. If a sprain does not improve rapidly a bone may be fractured; the child should be seen by a doctor.


• Do not attempt to correct a dislocation, even of the fingers. Dislocations are often accompanied by a fracture.

• What appears to be a sprained wrist in a child may actually be a fracture of the forearm bones near the joint; what appears to be a sprained thumb may actually be a fractured navicular bone in the hand.

• A severe sprain may take as long as a fracture to heal and if not treated properly can result in a permanently weak joint.

• A sprain is not healed if it is still swollen or if it is painful to move.

• Elastic bandages do not adequately support or protect a sprained ankle.

Medical treatment

Your doctor will carefully examine the injured joint and will take X rays if a dislocation or a fracture is suspected. A minor sprain may be X-rayed, or the joint immobilized and its rate of healing observed. If the rate of healing is not rapid enough, an X ray will be ordered.


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