Learn first aid for someone who has a strain or a sprain
If someone has pain, swelling or bruising around a joint or muscle after a sudden movement to part of their body, they may have a sprain or strain.
1. Get the person to rest.
2. Apply an ice pack to the injury.
An ice pack could be ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel. Applying it to the injury will reduce the swelling and pain.
3. If there is no improvement, seek medical advice.
Watch how to help someone who has a sprain or strain (1 minute 56 seconds)
Common questions about first aid someone who has a strain or sprain
How can I tell if someone has a strain or sprain?
Strains and sprains happen when someone suddenly moves part of their body.
They may have pain, swelling or bruising around a joint or muscle. If the injury is at a joint, the person may have difficulty in moving a limb.
What’s the difference between a strain and a sprain?
A strain is when a muscle is damaged. A sprain is when a joint – such as a knee, ankle or wrist – is damaged.
Is there anything other than ice that I can use to help with a sprain or strain?
You can use something cold, such as frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel.
How long should I apply an ice pack to the injury for?
Apply the ice pack to the injury for no more than 10 minutes. Anything over 10 minutes can cause further damage.
What do I do after I have put an ice pack on the injury?
Keep the injured part of the body supported in a raised position. Then apply a bandage around the injury. The bandage should not be tightly wrapped and you should make sure the bandage does not become tight.
Is the acronym RICE still used for helping someone with a strain or sprain?
Yes, RICE is a great way to remember how to help someone with a strain or sprain. The letters in RICE stand for:
- Comfortable support
Comfortable support can include an elasticated bandage around the affected joint or limb.
Can you use a warm cloth or alternate between warm and cold treatment?
Warm treatments are not recommended first aid. An ice pack is the most effective way of reducing the swelling.
Should I call 999 for a strain or sprain?
Most strains and sprains will feel better after rest and cooling.
Seek medical advice if you suspect that the bone is broken, there are other injuries, or the injury does not improve.
For more information on how to help someone (or yourself) with a strain or sprain, visit the NHS website. During life-threatening emergencies, call 999, or for non-emergency medical help, call 111.
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