Degrees of Joint Sprains

By Nicole Parriott, ATC

Degrees of Joint Sprains

Degrees of Joint Sprains can vary. A sprain is a stretch injury and/or tear of the ligament. Ligaments are fibrous bands of tissue that act as connectors, joining the end of one bone to the end of another bone to stabilize and support the body’s joints. The most common location for a sprain is in your ankles, knees, and wrists. When a sprain occurs, the ligament is injured due to being stretched beyond its normal length when the joint is taken through a greater range of motion (ROM) than its normal range without dislocation or fracture.

Degrees of Joint Sprains vary according to the injury.

Image of Ankle Joint Sprain.


The Degrees of Joint Sprains Are:

  • 1st Degree (Mild Sprain):
    • Slight stretching, some damage to the ligament fibers.
    • Slight pain & mild swelling.
    • Some decreased movement.
  • 2nd Degree (Moderate Sprain):
    • Partial tearing of the ligament with joint instability.
    • Increased pain, swelling.
    • Decreased movement and may be unable to weight bear.
  • 3rd Degree (Severe Sprain):
    • Complete tear of the ligament with instability. A “pop” may be heard at the time of initial injury.
    • Severe pain, swelling.
    • Decreased movement and usually unable to weight bear.


  • Bruising or discoloration.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Limited movement.


An examination will be performed and will vary depending on the severity of the joint sprain. The examination may include asking about the history of how you injured yourself. Questions may be asking like” how’d you injure yourself?”, “When did your injury occur?” and/or “Have you ever injured this body part before? If so, when?” The examination will also include asking you what your pain level is and where your pain is located. During the examination, your range of motion (ROM) measurements will usually also be taken to see how much you can or can not move the injured joint.


Initial treatment for joint sprains includes P.R.I.C.E. (protect the joint, rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Severe joint sprains sometimes require surgery to repair torn ligaments, muscles, or tendons.
Treatment and rehabilitation will vary depending on the severity and the location of the joint sprain and may include but is not limited to needing to wear a temporary splint or brace for support, gentle range of motion exercises, strengthening & stability exercises, weight-bearing, and balance exercises, functional/sports activities, and the use of therapeutic modalities.

Recovery Time

Recovery time depends on the degree of the joint sprain. General guidelines for healing are:

  • Mild 1st-degree joint sprains may take about 2 days to 1 week to heal and may or may not need physical therapy (PT).
  • Moderate 2nd-degree joint sprains may take about 1-2 weeks to heal, and physical therapy (PT) may be required.
  • Severe 3rd degree joint sprains may take 1 to several months to heal and usually require physical therapy (PT).


The key to preventing sprains is regular intervals of exercise/ training and proper stretching to help improve strength and flexibility to help stabilize around the joint. Without proper rehabilitation of the muscles around the joints, sprains can become a reoccurring or chronic occurrence.

JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000.

If you think you may be suffering from a joint sprain. JOI has a team of experienced Physicians that can help! To book an appointment, call JOI-2000 or click on the button below to schedule online.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician.

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By: Nicole Parriott, ATC

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