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Sprains and Strains (cont.)

Diagnosis of Sprains and Strains

Most sprains and strains are diagnosed by a history and physical exam. A doctor will examine the joint or muscle group and move them through their normal range of motion, looking for pain, tenderness, weakness, or instability.

If there is a possibility of a bone injury or fracture, an X-ray may be ordered. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is sometimes necessary to determine the exact extent of the injury because strains and sprains occur in soft tissue and do not show up on routine X-rays.

A doctor will determine the severity of a sprain or strain injury by degree.

Degrees of sprains, from mild to severe

  • First degree: limited pain or swelling to the joint, no instability
  • Second degree: moderate pain, swelling, and bruising, and some instability during range of motion
  • Third degree: severe pain, swelling, and bruising; joint is unstable; ligament is ruptured or torn completely

Degrees of strains, from mild to severe

  • First degree: limited pain, mild tenderness
  • Second degree: moderate pain; limited range of motion; swelling and bruising possible
  • Third degree: severe pain, limited or no movement, muscle tissue severely damaged and torn
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/5/2015

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