A sprain is an injury to the ligaments around a joint. Your ligaments are the strong, stretchable fibers that hold the bones together. If a ligaments is stretched too far or is torn, swelling and pain will result in the joint. Sprains often occur because a joint has been forced to move in an unnatural position. A common example of this is when you twist your ankle.

The symptoms of a sprain include joint or muscle pain, swelling, joint stiffness, bruising and other discoloration of the skin. In order to prevent a sprain, you should wear protective footwear if you are engaging in activities that put stress on the ankles or other joints. It is critical that your shoes fit your feet properly. Avoid wearing high heeled shoes. Always warm up and stretch prior to doing any exercise or sport. If you are not conditioned or ready for a sport, do not participate.

If you suffer a sprain, follow the RICE formula. Rest the injury by getting off your feet. Ice the sprain by applying an ice bag wrapped in cloth every two hours for 20 minutes. Compress the injury by wrapping the injured area in an ice bandage. Elevate the affected limb to a level above your heart.