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The first type of sprain is referred to as grade 1. These happen when ligaments are stretched well beyond their normal range, but remain intact. The second type of sprain is termed grade 2. Grade 2 sprains involve some tearing of the ligament. The last type of sprain is called grade 3 in which the ligament has been completely severed. You can pull just about any ligament in your body past its normal range of motion. However most sprains are treated similarly.
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Grade 2 and 3 - Professional Treatment
Grade 3 sprains often require surgery, as the ligaments have been completely severed. They will need to be reattached, as the function of ligaments is to join bones together and give the skeleton stability. Seek professional help immediately if you have or think you have a grade 3 sprain.
Grade 2 sprains may require professional rehabilitation. It would be well worth it to seek out professional help as partially torn ligaments need more treatment than you can give at home. Also, considering the fact that if a ligament does not heal properly, that joint may become less stable and more susceptible to future injury.
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Grade 1 - Home Treatment
Treating a grade 1 sprain may be done at home by using the R.I.C.E. method of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This method can also be used as first aid for grade 3 and 2 sprains until you can get to a medical professional. The first step of rest is self explanatory. In order for your stretched ligaments to heal, you must stop using that body part or use it as little as possible. The next step, is icing the injured area. Place a pack of ice cubes in a plastic bag. Apply the cold compress to the afflicted area for no more than twenty minutes at a time. Don't apply the ice directly onto the skin. Use a cloth as a buffer between the skin and the ice pack. Remove the ice for about 10 to 20 minutes, then reapply as needed. This will minimize swelling around the injured joint.
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Icing and Wrapping
Icing is most effective right after the injury occurs. Ice slows the blood flow around the injured area which helps to reduce bruising and swelling. It is also an excellent pain reliever. The third step, compression, can be a bit more difficult as it is relatively easy to wrap a sprained wrist, but a bit harder to wrap other body parts. If the injured joint can be wrapped, lightly compress the area using an ace bandage. Be sure that it is secure but not too tight. For ankles and wrists, you should have warm toes and fingers that can be wiggled. If they get cold or blue, the wrap is too tight.
Wrapping provides the joint with immediate stability and helps to take tension off of the ligaments so they can properly heal. The last part of this method, elevation, is achieved by holding the body part above heart level. The purpose of this is to help to reduce swelling and promote healthy blood flow, to prevent pooling around the injured area.
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When to See a Doctor
One of the best ways to judge whether you need an x-ray and a doctor visit is whether you're able to put weight on the joint or move it around. While swelling is a sign of injury, but it's not a good indicator of how bad the sprain is. Go to the doctor if you can't use the joint at all or if you can't put weight on it after a day. If you're prone to spraining the same body part over and over, see a doctor for an x-ray in case there's damage beyond a sprained ligament. If you're ever unsure of how bad your injury is or what to do, see a doctor to be on the safe side.