Complications of sprains and strains

Complications of a sprain or strain can include a fracture, dislocation or muscle and tendon injuries that need treatment in hospital.


If you have a sprain or strain with a lot of bruising and swelling it may indicate the bone is fractured (broken). Other signs of a fracture can include:

  • lumps and bumps not usually there
  • being unable to bear weight
  • pain or tenderness in a different place  for example, if you have sprained your ankle, but also have pain in your leg

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Dislocated joints can also be a complication of sprains and strains.

Pain and recurring swelling can be common complications after an ankle sprain, particularly on the outer (lateral) side of the ankle.

If you are unable to use or tighten a strained muscle it may mean a tendon attached to the muscle is ruptured.

If you twist your knee and feel a tearing sensation followed by severe pain, it could be a cartilage injury.

Referral to hospital

If your injury has complications, your GP may refer you to:

You may be referred to A&E or a specialist if you have:

  • a suspected fracture or dislocation
  • nerve or circulation damage
  • a ruptured tendon
  • a wound entering into the joint
  • a bleeding disorder or a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • signs of bacterial infection in a joint (septic arthritis), bleeding into a joint (haemarthrosis), or a large blood clot in a muscle (intramuscular haematoma)
  • a completely torn muscle, or more than half of it is torn

Your GP may also refer you to an orthopaedic specialist if your condition does not improve as expected.

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