DIY: Care for sprains

StrainsCommon causes for sprains and strains are falls, twisting a limb, sports injuries and over- exertion. A sprain results from overstretching or tearing a ligament (fibrous tissue that connects bones), a tendon (tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone) or a muscle. A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is overstretched or overexerted. Both sprains and strains result in pain and swelling. The amount of pain and swelling depends on the extent of damage.

Knowing, understanding, memorizing, and practicing what we’re about to teach you with this article is key because these types of injuries happen ALL THE TIME.

Not long ago, one of our writers fell down the stairs at the office. What we thought was a simple sprained ankle that we immediately iced and bandaged was still too painful for her and she went in to shock, (high body temperature and nausea). After a trip to the ER, we discovered that what we thought was a sprained ankle turned out to be a double whammy: sprained ankle AND a broken foot. Though she may not be having the best time of it, the injury taught us a good lesson: practice first aid so that when someone near you actually needs help, the only thing you can think to yourself isn’t “Damn, I read about how to fix that somewhere but now I can’t remember.” Also, even after you apply First Aid yourself, it’d be a good idea to take a trip to the hospital. If injured bones aren’t very specifically and properly taken care of, you may only be exacerbating the issue.


Common sense can prevent many sprains and strains. General safety measures to prevent slips and falls:

  • Clear porches and walkways of ice in winter weather.
  • Wear shoes and boots with non-skid soles.
  • Install sturdy hand rails on both sides of stairways.
  • Use rubber mats or adhesive-backed strips in bathtubs and shower stalls. Installing a support bar is also recommended.
  • Make sure light switches are located near all room entrances inside of the house and to entrances outside.
  • Use a night light between the bedroom and bathroom or in the hallway at night.
  • Keep stairways and foot traffic areas clear of shoes, toys, tools and other clutter.
  • Floor coverings should be kept skid-proof. Vinyl floors should be cleaned with non-skid wax.
  • Carpeting should be secured to the floor. Area rugs should have non-skid backing.
  • Be careful whenever you use a ladder. Make sure it is steady and long enough to reach the job without standing on the top three steps.

Do’s and Don’ts of Proper Lifting


  • Wear Shoes with low heels, not sandals or high heels.
  • Stand close to the thing you want to lift.
  • Plant your feet squarely, shoulder width apart.
  • Bend at the knees, not at the waist. Keep your knees bent as you lift.
  • Pull in your stomach and rear-end. Keep your back as straight as you can.
  • Hold the object close to your body.
  • Lift slowly. Let your legs carry the weight.
  • Get help or use a dolly to move something that is too big or very heavy.


  • Don’t lift if your back hurts.
  • Don’t lift if you have a history of back trouble.
  • Don’t lift something that’s too heavy.
  • Don’t lift heavy things over your head. Don’t lift anything heavy if you’re not steady on your feet.
  • Don’t bend at the waist to pick something up.
  • Don’t arch your back when you lift or carry.
  • Don’t lift too fast or with a jerk.
  • Don’t twist your back when you are holding something. Turn your whole body, from head to toe.
  • Don’t lift something heavy with one hand and something light with the other. Balance the load.
  • Don’t try to lift one thing while you hold something else. For example, don’t try to pick up a child while you are holding a grocery bag. Put the bag down or lift the bag and the child at the same time.

Treatment for sprains and strains will depend on the extent of damage done to the muscle, ligament or tendon. Self-help measures may be all that are needed for mild injuries. Severe sprains may require medical treatment. Some sprains require a cast. Others may need surgery if the tissue affected is torn.

Questions to Ask

Did the strain or sprain occur with great force from a vehicle accident or fall from a high place?

If YES- Seek emergency care and apply First Aid until professional help arrives. If NO- Consider the other factors below.

Are there any of these problems?

  • A bone sticks out or bones in the injured part make a grating sound.
  • The injured body part looks crooked or the wrong shape.
  • A loss of feeling in the injured body part.
  • Inability to move or put weight on the injured body part.

If YES- Apply First Aid and call for emergency Care.

If NO- Consider the problems listed below.

Are any of these problems present?

  • The skin around the injury turns blue and/or feels cold and numb.
  • There is bad pain and swelling or the pain is getting worse .
  • It hurts to press along the bone.

If YES- See a doctor.

If NO-Provide self-care. First Aid should be all you need.

Self-Care/First Aid

  • Stop what you’re doing. Then use R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
  • Take aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium as directed on the product label for pain and inflammation. (Take with food or milk to prevent stomach irritation.) [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication that has salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger unless a doctor tells you to.] Acetaminophen will help pain, but not inflammation.

Also note for specific areas of the body:

  • Remove rings right away if you have sprained a finger or other part of your hand. (If swelling occurs, the rings may have to be cut off.)
  • Use crutches for a badly sprained ankle. Crutches keep you from putting weight on the ankle which could cause further damage. Using them will help speed healing.