Sprains occur when one or more ligaments have been stretched, twisted or torn by excessive force. Common sites for sprains are the wrist and thumb and are often cause by an awkward fall or collision or by over-reaching.
The main symptoms are pain around the affected joint, an inability to use the joint normally or put weight on it, along with swelling, bruising and tenderness.
A doctor will need to know how the injury happened and will then examine the hand. The doctor will check for tenderness around the injury site, inflammation and bumps not usually present and bruising or bleeding around the joint. An X-ray may be needed in severe cases.
Many sprains and strains can be managed at home with over-the-counter painkillers and recovery protocols that include rest, icing and compressing the injured site and protecting it from further damage.
An orthopaedic consultant is best placed to decide the extent of an injury and recommend the correct treatment pathway as self-diagnosing a condition can lead to further damage. A medical expert can advise if a sprained joint needs immobilizing or should be used gradually to restore function.
A series of progressive exercises in combination with follow-up consultations can ensure a speedy recovery and, in certain cases, a physiotherapist may be recommended for more advance exercises.
Surgery is rarely carried out on sprains because less invasive treatments are viewed as being successful but severe muscle strains in professional sports people often require operations to restore muscle function and strength.
Recovery times vary and patients can experience pain and intermittent swelling for months after the initial injury.