Sprains and Strains – First Aid
Use the RICE method to relieve pain and inflammation and speed healing. Follow
these four steps immediately after injury and continue for at least 48 hours:
Reduce regular exercise or activities of daily living as needed. If you cannot
put weight on an ankle or knee, crutches may help. If you use a cane or one
crutch for an ankle injury, use it on the uninjured side to help you lean away
and relieve weight on the injured ankle.
Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight
times a day. A cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice and
wrapped in a towel can be used. To avoid cold injury and frostbite, do not
apply the ice for more than 20 minutes. (Note: Do not use heat immediately
after an injury. This tends to increase internal bleeding or swelling. Heat
can be used later on to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.)
Compression of the injured area may help reduce swelling. Compression can be
achieved with elastic wraps, special boots, air casts, and splints. Ask your
health care provider for advice on which one to use.
If possible, keep the injured ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist elevated on a
pillow, above the level of the heart, to help decrease swelling.