Sprains - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is a sprain diagnosed?

Your doctor will check for swelling and tenderness around your affected joint.

Your doctor may also recommend an X-ray or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to rule out fractures or other bone injuries, ligament tears or cartilage injuries.

How is a sprain treated?

You can treat a sprain yourself if it is mild. If your symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical treatment.

RICE method

If you experience a mild sprain, use the RICE method to reduce the symptoms:

  • Rest the affected joint and let it heal over time.
  • Ice the joint to reduce swelling and inflammation. Apply an ice pack on the affected area for 15 – 20 minutes each time. Repeat as needed in the next 2 days after the injury.
  • Compress the affected area to reduce swelling. Wrap the joint in a bandage or trainer tape. Take care not to wrap too tightly or you may affect blood circulation around the area.
  • Elevate the injured area above the level of your heart, especially at night. This allows gravity to help reduce the swelling.

After the first 2 days, gently begin to use the injured area to prevent the joints from getting stiff. Take extra care to protect the joint, such as by taping the joint or supporting it with a brace.


You may take over-the-counter pain medication if necessary.


Physiotherapy can improve the stability and strength of the injured joint.


Your sprain may be more severe if you experience:

  • Difficulty walking or standing without pain
  • Feeling numbness or tingling around the joint
  • Inability to move or flex the affected joint
  • Instability or sensation of giving way in the ankle
  • Persistent swelling that does not go away

Speak to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend a brace or splint to immobilise the area while it heals. For some injuries, such as a torn ligament, you may require surgery.

Recovery time for sprains

It takes time for a sprain to heal. Your recovery time depends on the severity of your injury and your general health.

For example, the average healing time for a mild to moderate ankle sprain is between 6 – 12 weeks for a full recovery.

If you suffered a full tear or rupture to your ligament, you may need treatment, surgery and months of rehabilitation for your sprain to heal completely.

However, with newer surgical techniques, the downtime can be reduced significantly. Do consult with your doctor for more information on this.

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