Sprains and strains are soft tissue injuries that usually result from sudden twists or jolts that apply greater force than the tissue can tolerate. Soft tissue injuries can be acute, resulting suddenly from a specific incident, or chronic, resulting over time from overuse or changes in normal tissue stress.

Sprains are joint injuries involving small tears to the ligaments that hold the joints together, and may include injury to the joint capsule. Common sites for sprains are ankle, wrist, and thumb. Signs and symptoms of a sprain include intense pain, restricted mobility, rapid development of swelling and bruising.

Strains are muscle injuries involving the tendons that anchor the muscles to joints, and may include injury to the muscles themselves. Common sites for strains are calf, groin, and hamstring. Signs and symptoms of a strain include sharp and sudden pain at the site of the injury, loss of muscle power, muscle tenderness.

The traditional treatment for sprains and strains is RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

Rest the injured part – this may include using crutches or a cane if the ankle or leg is injured, or using a sling if the arm or wrist is injured.

Apply ice wrapped in a wet cloth to the site of the injury for 15 minutes every two hours for the first day, and then every four hours for the second day.

Apply compression to the injury with a compression bandage extending well beyond the injury, wrapping from below to above the injury.

Elevate the injured part above heart level if practicable.

Elevation has become controversial since the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) Guideline 9.1.1 (Principles for the Control of Bleeding for First Aiders) cast doubt on the effectiveness of elevation as part of the treatment of external bleeding. The Guideline does not mention elevation for closed bleeding in limbs; however, it does recommend a cold pack and pressure, if available – closed bleeding in limbs includes bruising, and therefore, sprains.

The effectiveness of Rest also has been queried, with some health authorities putting the case for finding exercises that will speed healing, rather than immobilising the injured part. It has been suggested that immobilisation can reduce circulation and weaken muscles and ligaments through disuse, whereas exercise under the supervision of a health care practitioner can improve stability and enable a faster return to normal activity levels.

Risk of incurring sprains and strains can be reduced by wearing appropriate footwear for specific activities, warming up before athletic activities, regularly performing balance and strength exercises, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Allens Training Sunshine Coast sells Instant Ice Packs and Re-usable HotCold Packs, which can be useful in treating a variety of injuries, including sprains and strains, that may result from our physically active Sunshine Coast lifestyle. Drop into our shopfront at 8/10 Capital Place, Birtinya, or visit our online shop, for a range of first aid kits and first aid supplies.

Or download some free charts covering signs, symptoms and treatment for a number of common illness and injury scenarios.

First aid and CPR courses can be booked by visiting our website and booking online, or by calling our Sunshine Coast office on 5438 8888


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ACN 114 756 857