How is a sprain diagnosed?

A sprain can be diagnosed in several ways, including:

  • Through your doctor: Your doctor will take a history and do a physical exam to see if the history and exam are consistent with an injury to the joint which could have injured one or more ligaments. They will check for swelling, range of motion and stability of the joint.
  • Through imaging tests: Orthopaedic or Sports Medicine specialists will start with an X-ray to make sure that there is not a broken bone. Although a ligament cannot be seen on an X-ray, it can be important to look at the spacing of the joint and to rule out a fracture. Depending on their exam or your response to initial treatment, higher imaging like an ultrasound or MRI may be required to further evaluate your injury.

Are there different degrees of sprain?

Yes, similar to other injuries, there are different degrees of severity with sprains. The degrees are determined by how badly the ligaments in the ankle or wrist are injured.

  • Mild sprain: There is only a little stretching of the ligaments.
  • Moderate sprain: There is a combination of stretching and a little tearing of the ligament.
  • Severe sprain: There is a complete tear of the ligament.

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