Watching out for First, Second, and Third Degree Sprains
A sprain is an injury to the ligaments. Your ligaments are a group of tough rope-like fibers that connect 2
bones in your body.
They are common in the joint areas as your joints are the main joining point between different sections
of your body. Sprains happen when you stretch or tear anywhere between a few to all of the tendons in
a particular area.
What is a Sprain
Everyone’s had a sprain of some sort if they were ever a kid. It’s that feeling you get when you land on
your foot the wrong way, step in a pothole when running, or just put your weight on the side of your
They happen because of some impact. The joint takes too much pressure, causing the ligament to
stretch and sometimes tear.
They hurt like nothing else and prevent you from spending too much
time walking over the next couple days. From most people’s experience,
those injuries heal and they return to normal routines in no time at all.
This isn’t the case for everyone though. What was just described is just
the first degree of sprains.
Just like burns, there are three degrees you have to watch out for: first, second, and third. The following
discussion will help you identify a sprain’s degree and help you determine how to handle the situation.
Different Degrees of a Sprain
As stated previous, a first degree sprain is mild. A first degree constitutes a few stretched (not ripped)
ligaments, causing inflammation and irritation. The symptoms include mild/moderate swelling with
The joint still works though and stays in place. Mobility isn’t
restricted and people can take care of it themselves.
Because of the low intensity of the sprain, treatment is usually
limited. Periodically ice the area for 24-48 hours and slowly
return to normal activity over a 1 to 3 week span.
These are easy to deal with. They get harder as they move into
the second degree.
Second degree sprains partially tear the ligaments. You experience moderate to severe pain and expect
swelling to restrict your movement.
These sprains are sometimes accompanied by the feel or sound of a pop or snap at the time of injury,
and you may experience some joint instability. These injuries can be taken care of with the RICE formula
(rest, ice, compression and elevation).
These can take a bit longer to recover at home and you should consider going to see the doctor to get it
checked out. They can take anywhere between 6-8 weeks to get better.
Third degree sprains are the worst and require immediate attention from a professional. This happens
when you completely tear the ligaments.
This injury is often accompanied by a pop or snap. Surprisingly,
you may feel less pain and see less swelling or bruising then a
Complete tears will make your knee feel wobbly or loose. You
might hear a grating sound when you try to move the joint and a
bulge can appear at the site.
You can also feel numbness or tingling. These injuries need to be
checked out by a doctor.
In some cases, they’ll require surgery to get fixed. They are intense and take a long time to heal.
Having the skills to identify the degree of a sprain may help you to seek the best treatment immediately.
The sooner the injury is treated, the faster it will heal and the sooner you can return to normal life.
The Hofmann Institute is an Orthopedic Clinic in Salt Lake City. Their doctors have worked with similar
injuries throughout their career.
This Orthopedic Clinic in Salt Lake strives daily to help their patients return to complete normalcy as
quickly as possible. Sprains are a painful injury, but they get fixed every day.