If the joint is exposed to excessive strain, it may result in the cracking of ligaments that connect the adjacent bones and firm the joint; this type of injury is called a sprain. The odds ratio depends on how many ligaments have broken. Sprain can affect any joint, but it is most common on knees, ankles, hand wrists and fingers.
Pain and painful sensitivity to the site of injury can be of various strengths – from mild to severe – depending on the extent of damage. The joint is still usable, but only at the cost of additional pain. The swelling may appear and skin color change.
If the sprain is severe and all support ligaments are bent, the joint will not only swell, but it will be distorted as well.
Sprains are common; for example, in the United Kingdom, one doctor every year addresses 1 to 30 people for this type of injury.
Less important sprain is not dangerous, at all. However, repeated stretching and tearing the ligaments will weaken each joint; this applies especially to the ankle.
What to do?
Apply recommended self-help measures for light sprains. If the pain is severe, or lasts for more than two to three days, go to a doctor who will look at your joint and probably take X-rays because a simple visual examination is not enough to distinguish sprains from fractures.
Self-help: if you have a mild sprain, tighten your joint with an elastic bandage and do not strain it. You will reduce the swelling with an ice bag.
After a day or two, start practicing joint as much as possible, but do not strain it. When not exercising, hold the hinge in an elevated position (e.g. put injured legs on your chair while sitting) to reduce the swelling.
Professional help: if you have a severe sprain, your doctor may put the affected part of your arm or foot (or your finger) in a gypsum. Surgical regeneration of heavily broken ligamends is sometimes needed. After such an operation, you will need to have gypsum for several weeks. After removing the gypsum, you will probably need to wear a support bandage and go to physical therapy to strengthen the joint for normal use.