First Aid for Sprain: Symptoms and How To Prevent

Bone fracture foot and leg on male patient close up.
A sprain is an injury that affects the movement of a person, particularly the joints in the extremities. While accidents that result from sprains do not happen often, it is still important to be aware of activities that can lead to this type of injury so that you can exercise caution to prevent it. Sprains are not necessarily a medical emergency, but it is still crucial to apply first-aid treatment to prevent further injuries.

What is Sprain?

A sprain happens when the tough fibrous tissues of the body known as ligaments are stretched beyond their capacity or torn off. The ligaments are responsible for connecting two bones together in your joints, and injuries involving these areas may lead to a sprain. Sprains commonly happen in the ankle, often as a result of an unsteady landing after a jump or an uneven landing surface. Wrist sprains are also particularly common. Sprains can range from mild to severe, and severe cases require urgent medical attention. In these situations, have a private ambulance service bring the patient to the hospital for medical care.

What causes Sprain?

A sprain is often caused by certain activities that involve the joints. These activities may include:
  • Physical or athletic activities, like exercising, running, or jogging
  • Sports
  • Accidents like falling, slipping, or getting hit
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Overexerting yourself

Symptoms of Sprain

A sprain can be determined through symptoms that would appear after an accident. These symptoms may include:
  • Pain in the affected joint
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restrained or limited movement
  • Inability to use the joint’s full range of motion

Risk Factors of Sprain

Anyone can suffer from a sprain at a certain point. However, there are risk factors that may increase the likelihood of an individual experiencing sprain. These risks include:
  • Lack of proper conditioning Engaging in an activity without the much-needed muscle conditioning hinders your muscles and joints from supporting the full range of your movements.
  • Use of ill-fitting equipment or gear When working out or participating in sports, make sure that the equipment that you are using is in good working condition. For protective gear and shoes, it is important that it fits you well. Otherwise, you increase your risk of suffering from sprains.
  • Not warming up Warming up and cooling down after an exercise or a strenuous physical activity is actually crucial for your muscles from preventing injuries. A warm-up allows the muscles to gently stretch and further increases your range of motion. A cool-down activity strengthens the muscles giving room for better joint support.
  • Unsuitable environment and conditions Wet and slippery roads and surfaces can make walking difficult and can even lead to severe accidents. Awareness of your surroundings can help you take caution to prevent an injury from happening.

Treatment for Sprain

Immediate treatment for sprains includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation, which forms the acronym RICE. Mild sprains can be easily treated at home, while severe sprains may involve surgery.

First-Aid Treatment for Sprain

To treat sprains, always remember RICE. This acronym stands for:
  • Rest As much as possible, refrain from using the affected joint as it heals. The sprained joint will heal faster once it is given time to rest.
  • Ice Ice minimises the swelling and helps in managing the pain.
  • Wrap a few pieces of ice in a piece of cloth, and apply it to the injured area for 20 minutes. Then, let the ice application rest for 20 minutes, before proceeding to do so again. Repeat the process as many times as possible for 24-48 hours since the sprain.
  • Compression To further alleviate the swelling, wrap the sprained joint in a bandage. Make sure that you are not wrapping it too tight, as this can constrict the blood supply to the area and cause further problems.
  • Elevation Maintain the affected joint in an elevated level that is above the heart, at least up to 2 days after the sprain has occurred.
You will notice an improvement in the symptoms after following these steps for 2 days.

Prevention for Sprain

In general, there is no way to prevent sprains from accidents. However, reducing your chances of experiencing sprains is possible.
  • Before anything else, stretch. The importance of stretching for the muscles and joints should always be emphasized. This is because exercising or playing sports without stretching is not good for your joints. Make it a point to warm up and stretch to allow your joints and muscles to prepare for any physical activity.
  • Exercise regularly. Maintaining moderate exercise or activity in regular intervals every day helps in keeping the muscles more flexible and strong. Even a brisk walk after lunch helps.
  • Take extra caution. During rainy, icy, or snowy weather, always exercise extra care when walking down the street. Don’t hurry. It also helps to wear a good pair of shoes that has impressive tread.
  • Invest in worthy equipment. If you are intent on exercise or pursuing sports, you must make it a point to spend money on good equipment that can provide you with the support that you need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ankles, knees, and wrists are the most common spots for sprains.
Mild sprains can heal at home by following the acronym RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation for 2 days after the injury. For severe sprains where the ligament is torn, surgery may be required.
A sprain is different from a strain. A sprain is when the ligaments are stretched or torn. Strain is when the muscles or tendons are stretched or torn. Sprain and strains have very similar symptoms, that is why these two are also very hard to differentiate. The main difference between the two conditions is that a sprain is characterised by bruising on the affected joint, whereas a strain is characterised by spasms in the injured muscle.
The healing period for a sprain can take from days to months, depending on the injury. Mild sprains can heal in a matter of days, for as long as you apply the proper treatment and keep the affected joint immobile as much as possible.

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