What is a sprain?

A sprain is caused by tearing or stretching of ligaments, the fibrous tissue that connects your bones to one another and keeps your joints in place. The injury is most common at the wrist, ankle or knee, and can happen as a result of falling, getting hit or twisting. Sometimes, you might hear a popping or tearing sound when it occurs. Many athletes experience sprains, sometimes as a result of overuse and pushing too hard, or from not warming up or stretching enough. Some sprains are simply accidental.

Symptoms of a sprain

As soon as you have an injury like a sprain, it’s important to stop what you’re doing immediately. Any further activity can make the injury worse and could cause long-term damage and a longer recovery period.

Signs of a sprain appear very quickly and may include:

  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Inability to move at the joint
  • Sensitivity in the injured area


Sprains are usually treatable at home with the RICE formula: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You may also benefit from pain-relieving medication, such as ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory. If your injury gets worse, or you see no improvement after using RICE, you might need a doctor to assess your condition.

Main Line Health offers orthopaedic doctors to quickly evaluate, diagnose your injury and develop a personalized treatment plan. Our experts will start with a physical examination and review of your medical history. Your doctor may recommend certain tests to rule out breaks, fractures, clotting and other potential complications. You may have an X-ray, MRI or CT scan, and in some cases, physical therapy may be part of your treatment and recovery. In rare instances, when nonsurgical methods have not resolved your injury, surgery may be needed.

Non-Surgical Orthopaedic Treatments

Some orthopaedic conditions are first treated with non-surgical procedures followed by surgery as the next step.

Physical Therapy

Each inpatient and outpatient physical therapy rehab is individually designed and administered by a licensed physical therapist who consistently guides you from that first visit all the way through recovery.


Pain Management

Discover how Main Line Health experts serve Philadelphia by treating a wide range of conditions, including back, neck and oncology-related pain.

Sports Medicine

If you’ve had a sports-related injury or have a condition that’s keeping you out of the game, our sports medicine expert physicians and specialists are here to help you get back to doing the things you love.

Emergency Medicine

Take comfort in knowing that the Emergency Care Team at Main Line Health is here for you when you need us most to provide compassionate care as quickly as possible.