A sprain occurs when there is minor trauma – usually tearing or overstretching – to a ligament, causing it to move out of its normal range of motion. While sprains can be painful, they’re usually nothing to worry about. A sprain will probably start to hurt right away and will swell and look bruised. It may be difficult to walk or move the injured ligament, and it may feel as if the bone is broken.
Every case is slightly different, but in general the symptoms of a sprain are as follows:
- Pain in the affected area
- Difficulty using the affected limb
- Heat, bruising, or redness
If your child exhibits these symptoms, attempt to ascertain what happened to cause the injury. Keep in mind that these symptoms do not automatically indicate a sprain and you may need to schedule a doctor visit to verify the source of your child’s pain.
Treating a sprain depends upon the severity of the injury.
- For mild sprains, think R.I.C.E – rest, ice, compression, elevation. Keep your child off of the injured area, apply ice and compression regularly, and elevate the injury to help keep swelling down
- For pain or swelling, ibuprofen can help
- Restricting your child’s physical activity can help to speed up the healing process
- Place a bandage or splint around the injured area for comfort
- Consider a referral to a physical therapist for more significant sprains
Sprains are not completely preventable, but you can lessen your child’s chances of an injury, especially if she is heavily involved in sports and other physical activities.
- Restrict his/her participation to no more than five days per week and have her take long (two to three months) breaks from a specific activity during the year.
- Ensure that your child stretches adequately before participating in physical activity and wears high-quality, supportive gear to minimize the risk of a sprain.