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.

Symptoms of a Sprain

  • Bruising or discoloration.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Limited movement.
  • The joint may feel loose or unstable.

Diagnosis of Sprains

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  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.

Treatment of Sprains

Initial treatment for joint sprains includes R.I.C.E. (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 with physical therapy (PT)
  • Severe 3rd degree joint sprains may take 1 to several months to heal and usually requires physical therapy (PT).

Everyone heals from an injury differently, so this may affect the time for recovery.


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 and JOI Rehab

JOI Physicians continue to offer online new patient appointments. This is another option to make it more convenient to make new patient appointments with less phone hold times. Follow the link below to select your JOI MD and schedule online.

However, you can still call 904-JOI-2000 to make new patient JOI Physician Appointments if that is your preference.

Finally, to make appointments with JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician.

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By: Nicole Parriott, ATC

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