A sprain is a very common injury that affects old and young alike. It does not matter if you are someone who is highly athletic and thus more prone to a sports injury, or simply someone who lives an overall sedentary lifestyle. The odds of having to deal with one or more sprain injuries are just as high. To understand the nature of a sprain, it is useful to look behind the scenes of the injury. During the average sprain, the ligaments that are attached to the various bones and also the joint are overly stretched and in some cases even torn.

Quite frequently such a sprain happens when the affected limb is suddenly shifted in such a manner that the ligaments cannot gradually extend. For example, if an ankle is caused to roll during the landing of a jump, the odds are good that the sudden need for ligament extension leads to a sprain. Depending on the direction of the sudden roll of the limb, the ligaments affected by the sprain may indeed vary. Patients tend to initially ignore the sprain brought on by the movement, until use of the affected limb becomes too painful.

Once the patient determines that it is time for medical attention, the odds are good that the doctor will seek to differentiate the sprain by assigning it one of three grades. The first grade sprain is little more than a ligament injury that results in an overstretching of the ligament, but the tearing is slight, and the swelling can be controlled with ice packs, over the counter pain killers and also rest. A grade two sprain is a bit more serious. The tearing of the ligament is most likely more pronounced, but since it is not completely, it does not merit the worst grade assignment.

Use of the limb even after medicating with pain killers and the use of ice packs is most likely going to be painful. Swelling is likely to remain present longer, and in some cases the affected limb may also show some unappealing bruises. A third grade sprain is the worst kind of sprain currently and it denotes a complete ligament tear. The joint is bruised, swollen, and use of the limb is virtually impossible. The pain is so severe that prescription pain medication is sometimes ordered. In severe cases, this is the kind of sprain that must be surgically repaired.