Sprain First Aid

Sprains and strains are common soft tissue injuries. Most of us will experience a strain or a sprain at some point. In this first aid blog post we’ll take a closer look at the first aid treatment for sprains and strains as well as discussing the difference between these two types of injury.


Sprains involve the over-extension of a joint, usually with partial rupture of the ligaments in the joint. There may also be blood vessel, nerve or tendon damage. Like a fracture, severe ligament damage may require subsequent immobilization in a plaster cast.

Signs and Symptoms of a Sprain

  • Sudden pain in the joint
  • Loss of power and ability to put weight through the joint
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Area becomes tender (painful to press on)

First Aid Treatment

  • RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
  • Seek medical aid for assessment of ligament damage
The ankle is a common joint injured during a sprain injury


Strains involve over-stretching of the major muscles or tendons and occur when the fibers of a muscle or tendon are over-stretched and tear. This injury is usually less severe than a sprain, but can still have complications if not managed correctly.

Signs and Symptoms of a Strain

  • Pain, worse on movement
  • An audible ‘crack’ may be heard as the tendon parts from the bone
  • Tenderness, discomfort when weight bearing
  • Swelling, if near joint

First Aid Treatment

  • RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
  • Avoid stretching or massaging the injured limb for 24 hours
    • When the pain subsides, start activity slowly and in moderation
    • If pain persists, seek professional medical advice

    RICE Treatment for Sprains and Strains

    RICE is a first aid acronym used to remember the treatment of soft tissue injuries in first aid.

    RICE stands for:

    • Rest. Resting the injured area helps reduce bleeding and swelling.
    • Ice helps to limit inflammation and reduce pain by causing the blood vessels to constrict, restricting the amount of fluid and swelling in the injured part.
    • Compression. Wrapping the injured part with tape or an elastic bandage helps limit swelling by reducing blood flow to the injured part.
    • Elevation. Raising the injured part reduces blood flow & subsequent painful swelling.

    John Furst

    JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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