|Strains occur when the muscle is overstretched, leading to a particular tear. Sprains are injuries to a ligament, a tough band tissue that links two bones together at or near a joint. Commonly sprained joints include the wrist, knee, and ankle.
The person suffering the injury may often sense that the area is not broken—she may have suffered similar injuries before particularly if the injury has occurred through sport. If both of you are confident that there is no other injury, then the best treatment is:
- Place the injured part at rest. This prevents any further damage. Help the person into a comfortable position—for a leg injury, this will usually be lying down with head and shoulders supported.
- Apply a cold compress. Wrap some ice in a triangular bandage or other clean piece of material and hold gently on the site of the injury. This will help relieve pain and reduce swelling. Do not apply ice directly to the injury because this may damage the skin. Cool the injury for 10-15 minutes, keeping the compress cold with refills as necessary.
- Apply a compressing gauze wrap. This will help reduce pain and swelling and will provide support for the injury.
- Elevate the injured part. Elevation will help reduce swelling and pain. If the arm is injured, use either the other arm or elevation sling as appropriate to provide additional support.
- Seek medical assistance and make sure the victim keeps the limb raised and supported until help arrives.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The signs and symptoms of strains, and more particularly sprain, are very similar to those of a broken bone. There may be pain, particularly on movement, swelling, and bruising (usually a little while after the
accident). It is often impossible to tell if an injury is a sprain or a fracture without an X-ray and it is not unusual for sprains to take as long a time to heal a simple break.
If in doubt, treat the injury as a broken bone and seek further medical help.
ALTERNATIVE COLD COMPRESSES
If ice is not readily available, soak a flannel or other piece of material in very cold water, wring it out, and apply to the injury. Replace this every 2-3 minutes as the material warms up. Alternatively, consider the contents of the freezer. Frozen peas make an excellent cold compress as the bag conforms to the shape of the injury.