How to provide first aid for sprains and strains

A sprain is a severe wrench or twist of the ligaments, such as an ankle, wrist or another joint, that causes pain and swelling.

A strain is a force tending to pull or stretch muscles or tendons causing damage.

It can be difficult to tell whether the injury is a fracture, dislocation, sprain or strain. If in doubt, always treat it as a fracture.

What to do

Unconscious casualty

  1. Follow DRSABCD St John WA Action Plan.
  2. Rest and reassure the casualty.
  3. Manage as a fracture if any doubt.
  4. Follow the RICE management plan:
    • REST the casualty and the injured part.
    • ICEPACK (cold compress) for fifteen (15) minutes.
    • COMPRESSION bandage after the icepack – apply firmly and extend well beyond the injury.
    • ELEVATE the limb.
    Rules when using icepacks
    • Wrap icepack in a damp cloth.
    • Apply to the injured site for fifteen (15) minutes and then reapply every two (2) hours for first twenty-four (24) hours.
    • Never apply ice directly to the skin or onto an open wound. If no ice is available use a cloth wrung out in cold water – this will need replacing every ten (10) minutes.
  5. Seek medical attention if in doubt or if no improvement after RICE.

Caused by

  • Falling and landing on arm.
  • Fall on the side of the foot.
  • Twisting a joint.

    Signs and symptoms

    • Pain.
    • Swelling.
    • Bruising.
    • Loss of power.
    • Tenderness.
    • Muscle spasm.