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What are Sprains?

A sprain is caused by an injury that stresses a joint and overstretches or even ruptures its supporting ligaments.

In a mild sprain, a ligament is stretched but the joint remains stable and is not loosened.

A moderate sprain partially tears the ligament, causing the joint to be unstable.

With a severe sprain, ligaments tear completely or separate from the bone. This loosening interferes with how the joint functions. You may feel a tear or pop in the joint. Although the intensity varies, all sprains commonly cause pain, swelling, bruising, and inflammation.

The ankle is the most commonly sprained joint. And a sprained ankle is more likely if you've had a previous sprain there. Repeated sprains can lead to ankle arthritis, a loose ankle, or tendon injury.

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UR Medicine's Treatments for Sprains

Right after an injury, start rest, ice, compression, and elevation (abbreviated as RICE) to help minimize damage. RICE relieves pain, limits swelling, and speeds healing. It’s often the best treatment for soft-tissue injuries, like sprains and strains. Here's what to do:

  • Rest. Move the injured area as little as possible to allow healing to begin.
  • Ice. Apply ice right away to reduce inflammation, which causes more pain and slows healing. Cover the injured area with an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel for about 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Compression. Using a pressure bandage helps prevent or reduce swelling. Use an elastic bandage and wrap the injured area without making it so tight that it will cut off the blood supply.
  • Elevation. Raise the injured area above the level of the heart.

Do all four parts of the RICE treatment at the same time. 

If you think you have a more serious injury, like a broken bone or severe sprain, you can seek care from your primary care provider or orthopaedic urgent care.

Mild sprains and strains may need rehab exercises and a change in activity during recovery. A severe sprain or strain may need surgery or immobilization, followed by physical therapy.

What Sets Us Apart?

UR Medicine maintains a dedicated orthopaedic urgent care team with five locations open Monday through Saturday, with after-hours care available. Walk-ins are not accepted at this clinic, you must make an appointment, and we can see you as quickly as possible. And our sports medicine specialists can work with athletes through rehabilitation after a sprain.

Orthopaedic urgent care is by appointment only: call (585) 275-5321.

We’re a full-service academic medical center—the largest in the region—so if any complications arise, we have the resources and expertise to ensure you get what you need to recover.


Our care team is here for you. Find a UR Medicine expert and get care now.

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5 locations

Orthopaedics & Physical Performance - Greece

South Pointe Landing
10 South Pointe Landing, Suite 100
Rochester, NY 14626

Orthopaedics & Physical Performance - Penfield

Platinum Office Complex
2064 Fairport Nine Mile Point Road
Penfield, NY 14526

St. James Center for Orthopaedic Care - Hornell

St. James Hospital
7309 Seneca Road North, Suite 107
Hornell, NY 14843

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