Sprains are an injury in which a joint is forced past its normal range of motion resulting in overstretching or tearing of the ligaments. Strains are stretching or tearing of a muscle or muscle tendon. It is often hard to distinguish between a bone fracture, ligament sprain or muscle strain.

Assess the seriousness of the injury:

  • Did the victim hear a snapping sound or feel the breaking of a bone?
  • Are there any visible deformities?
  • Are there signs of hemorrhaging?
  • Is there increased joint laxity of the injured body part?
  • Is the patient able to move the injured body part?
  • How bad is the pain the victim is experiencing?
  • How bad is the de-colouring of the area and the swelling?

Answering these questions will help you determine how serious the injury is and if you are dealing with a fracture, strain or sprain. If it is apparent that a fracture has occurred then refer to the Fractures section.

Initial Care

  • Immobilize the injured body part Make sure the victim does not move the injured body part. Use a splint or crutches to prevent further injury.

  • Raise the injured body part This will reduce the swelling by draining fluids from the swollen area.

  • Apply Ice Cooling Apply ice to injured body part. Do not let the ice make contact with the skin directly, cover it with a cloth or plastic to prevent frostbite. Cooling the injured limb will reduce the swelling and numb the area. Do not apply ice for longer than 20 minutes at an end and stop application when the area is numb. Use 20 minute intervals with the ice on and off for the first 72 hours of treatment.

  • Compression Wrap the injured body part in an ace wrap using elastic bandages. Make it snug but not so tight that it cuts of circulation.

  • Warm Compresses The ice will numb the pain and reduce the initial swelling. After the first 72 hours you should use warmth instead of cold. Warmth will help the healing process. Use warm compresses.


  • Normal Activity Try to maintain normal activity during recovery. Circulation and movement will help the healing process. Slight discomfort is alright but make sure not to push it.

  • Follow up Treatment Make sure that there are signs of healing. If the injured body part remains painfull and swolen seek medical advise.