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Written by Medical Professional
Can be Treated Online
Appointments Available Today
Claudia Jackson (RN)
Dr Waseem Mohi
Next Review: Sep 1, 2025
A muscle sprain occurs when there is an injury such as a stretch or tear to a ligament. Ligaments are tough, band-like structures that connect 2 or more bones to a joint.
Muscle sprains most commonly affect the ankles, but can also occur in the wrists, thumbs, and knees.
Symptoms of muscle sprain include:
There are 3 types of muscle sprain, based on how severe they are and how badly the joint is affected.
A Grade 1 (mild) muscle sprain involves mild stretching of the ligament with few torn fibres and no joint instability.
A Grade II (moderate) muscle sprain involves a partial tear of the ligament with mild or no joint instability.
A Grade III (severe) muscle sprain occurs when the ligament is completely torn, and the joint is unstable.
Muscle sprains normally occur during activity when abnormal movement stretches or twists the ligament causing them to stretch or tear. They commonly occur during sport, or when landing awkwardly during a fall.
While muscle sprain is damage to the ligament, muscle strain occurs when there is overstretching or tearing of the muscles or tendons (the fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones). Symptoms of sprains and strains are similar and the treatment for both is usually the same.
You can treat most muscle sprains yourself at home.
Treatment is known as RICE therapy which consists of the following 4 steps:
Rest —avoid using the joint for 48 to 72 hours following the injury
Ice —apply an ice pack as soon as possible after the injury and for around 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours for the next 2 to 3 days. You can use a bag of frozen vegetables or make an ice pack by wrapping ice in a cloth or tea towel. Never apply ice directly to the skin.
Compression —support the joint by wrapping an elastic or compression bandage around it. Apply the bandage with mild pressure, so that it supports the joint, but not so tightly that it restricts blood flow.
Elevate —keep the affected joint raised on a pillow as much as possible.
Other things you can do to help your sprain heal include:
Most muscle sprains will feel better after a couple of weeks, but severe sprains may take several months to heal fully. If your muscle sprain is severe, not getting better with home treatment, or has caused damage to your joint, your GP may recommend further treatments. These may include physiotherapy, a short leg cast, or walking boot, or rarely, surgery to tighten the ligament.
Make an appointment to see a doctor if:
Call an ambulance or go to hospital immediately if:
These may be signs of a broken bone and require an X-ray.
If you think you have a muscle sprain, an online doctor can assess your symptoms and provide advice and support, without you having to leave your home.
Our NHS-trained GPs can examine your injury via video consultation, and make a diagnosis based on how the injury occurred, and your symptoms. They can then give advice about how to manage your injury, prescribe medications to help with pain and swelling, and recommend further investigations and treatments if necessary.
Making an online video appointment is quick and easy at Medicspot. Simply click the link, choose a time and day that suits you, and have your consultation via video link from your phone wherever you are.
Appointments are available Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 9 pm.
Pharmacists can help recommend the best treatments for you, based on your symptoms, general health, and factors like your past medical history, any allergies you have, or other medications you are taking.
Muscle sprains are a common injury that can normally be treated at home but sometimes need further treatment. If you think you have a muscle sprain and would like to speak to a doctor, make an online GP appointment today.
NHS: Sprains and strains February 10th 2021 (Accessed October 14th 2022)
Medline Plus: Sprains and Strains January 3rd 2017 (Accessed October 14th 2022)
Patient: Sprains and Strains March 1st 2018 (Accessed October 14th 2022)
FootCare MD: How to care for a sprained ankle 2022 (Accessed October 14th 2022)
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