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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I sprained my foot ten days ago. It still is very sore. How long until I should feel relief?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. is associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing rheumatologist for over 20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is an active teacher in the Internal Medicine Residency Program, serving as the Robinson Firm Chief. He is also a teacher in the Rheumatology Fellowship Program.

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September 17, 2013
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A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the tough connective tissue that attaches bones to one another.

Sprains range from mild to severe. Mild sprains are due to stretched ligaments and cause minor pain and little or no swelling. Elevation, ice, rest and a mild pain reliever (such as acetaminophen) may be all that is necessary. And improvement may take only a few days. 

A severe sprain may be due to tears in one or more ligaments. And it is usually accompanied by severe pain, swelling, and weakness of the joint. This type of injury may require surgery. Even when surgery isn’t necessary, moderate to severe ligament injuries can take weeks or even months to get better.

To answer your specific questions, I would need more information:

  • How did the injury happen?
  • What part of the foot was injured? 
  • Where is the pain?
  • Does the pain get worse when you move or bear weight on it?
  • Did your doctor make the diagnosis? Did you have any X-rays?
  • Is there swelling, redness or warmth in the area of the pain? 
  • Have you had a fever?

These details matter because what seems to be a foot sprain could turn out to be a broken bone, a muscle tear or another condition. How the injury happened, your specific symptoms and the findings from your physical exam would help confirm the diagnosis of a sprain. Or, they may suggest that your pain is due to something else.

See your doctor for an exam if you haven’t already done so. You may need more evaluation and treatment. This could include X-rays, an anti-inflammatory drug, a brace and/or evaluation by an orthopedist or podiatrist.

 

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