Joint sprain

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Orthopedics

Clinical Definition

Joint sprain is the stretching or tearing of the connective tissue that connects bone to bone and supports the joints, also known as a ligament. It's often confused with a strain, defined as an injury to a muscle or tendon, the cord of tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Pain, bruising, swelling and inflammation are common with joint sprain. Rest, ice, compression and elevation are typical treatments. 

In Our Own Words

Joint sprain, one of the most common sports injuries, occurs when one or more ligaments are overloaded or torn. Ligaments connect bone to bone and support the joints. Sprains happen when the joint is stretched beyond its normal limits. Sprains can be mild to severe; often a pop or tear in the joint is felt.


Among the most common are sprains of the ankle and finger (''jammed finger''). The vast majority of ankle injuries occur when the foot inverts, turning the ankle inward and injuring the outer (lateral) ligaments. Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) are advised.

Relevant Conditions
Common Types
  • Sprained ankle
  • Jammed finger
Side Effects
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  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Sprains." Accessed August 2013.
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "Sprains and Strains: What's the Difference?" Accessed August 2013.
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