How to Treat a Sprain

It's important to learn how to treat a sprain properly so you can speed healing and prevent against further injury. Remember this acronym: RICE. The letters stand for Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate.

As soon as you realize you've sprained your ankle, knee, foot, wrist or shoulder, follow the following steps:

Rest the Joint
Get off the affected body part as soon as possible. If you can, don't put weight on the affected joint for the remainder of the day. When you do have to put weight in the sprained body part, do so gingerly.

Ice the Painful Spot
Wrap ice in a towel and apply it for 20-minute increments to the sprain. After twenty minutes of icing, give the sprain a 10- to 20-minute break, then ice again. Repeat this process as many times as possible during the day.

Compress the Sprain
Wrap the sprained joint with a bandage to prevent swelling. Make sure to loosen the bandages if the swelling is excessive; you don't want to restrict blood flow to the injured area, but you do want to provide support to the injured joint.

Elevate the Joint
Try to elevate the joint above your heart for at least twenty minutes after the sprain occurs.

In Addition
In addition to this basic first aid, you'll want to take the following sprain care steps:

  1. Take an anti-inflammatory drug.
  2. Take the prescribed dose of an anti-inflammatory drug, such as Advil or Aleve,  round the clock for the next 48 hours.

See a doctor if:

  • The swelling is excessive
  • A hematoma forms
  • You cannot stand on the body part
  • Extensive bruising follows

You may need to wear a cast, immobilization boot or a sling to protect the sprained body part. You may also need surgery if the ligament tore completely. Most sprains need rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and time to repair for several weeks. Do not resume exercise that uses the injured body part until you are sure you have healed completely. Make sure to stretch the area where the sprain occurred before and after exercise to prevent re-injuring the body part.

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