Pain, swelling, and sometimes discoloration at a joint. Movement usually increases the pain. Muscles contractions and spasms may also occur.

What is a Sprain?

From Modern Western Medicine

A sprain occurs when a ligament between joints is stretched, sometimes with some degree of tearing. Sprains usually occur at the ankle, knee, back, or wrist. Sprains occur from trauma, usually the result of an accident.

From Traditional Medicine

While sprains occur from a traumatic incident that appears to be an accident, the underlying cause is actually an imbalance in the body’s qi flow. The accident is an event that allows the body to restore the harmony to the imbalanced area. The imbalance is either excessive qi that has been accumulating in that joint, in which the accident provides an opportunity to release the excess energy; or deficient qi in that joint, in which case the accident allows the body to concentrate its healing energy on the joint and restore balance to that part of the body.



  • Rest
  • Gentle overall body massage
  • Physiotherapy, as described below


Herbs to Treat Sprains

  • Arnica tincture: apply topically four to six times per day
  • Witch hazel: apply 1 – 30 drops of tincture to the sprain



  • Arnica: Use for the initial shock of injury. Massage injured area with arnica oil or lotion, but only on unbroken skin
  • Bryonia: when injury is swollen, distended, and feels worse with movement, take internally
  • Ledum: when injured joint is cold and numb and there is much swelling, take internally
  • Rhus toxicodendron (after arnica): if joint is hot, swollen, and painful; “rusty gate” feeling; creaky on first movement; better when limbered up
  • Ruta graveolens (use after arnica): for torn and wrenched tendons or ligaments, bruised periosteum (bone covering), if worse in cold and wet weather
  • Symphytum can be taken internally or as a lotion. Take after arnica and ruta graveolens, if necessary, for injury to sinews, tendons, and the bone covering.



First, apply ice as quickly as possible to reduce the swelling, minimize the pain, and speed healing. Keep ice applied for 30 minutes. Use ice throughout the time of recovery to reduce swelling. Keep extremities, such as toes and fingers, exposed and free to maximized circulation. If fingers and toes turn blue, unwrap and rewrap less tightly. Elevate the injured joint to prevent blood from accumulating at injured site. Allow greater mobility as healing occurs, usually within 48 hours.

Once pain is reduced, place joint in hot water or apply moist, hot compresses to promote circulation and the removal of immune-related by-products. Slowly move the joint to promote circulation, but do not stretch or stress the joint beyond its comfortable limits of movement. Passive movement, in which the joint is moved without the use of the injured person’s muscle activity, may be needed for some joints.

Reapply ice periodically throughout the day to prevent swelling and to speed healing.

After joint has begun to heal and allows normal movement without pain, use muscle-assisted exercises. At first, use no weights; simply use the weight of the limb. Then, increase weight to 1 to 2 pounds, depending on the strength of the weight involved. Do not stress the joint. Be patient and allow the joint to heal over time.

All severe sprains should be checked for fracture.

Chinese Medicine

Tienchi ginseng is a very effective Chinese herb for injuries. The herb moves qi and is highly effective in the treatment of sports injuries. Dose is ¼ to 3 g.