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Sprains and Strains
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If You Have to Move the Casualty

Sprains and Strains

Strains occur when the muscle is overstretched, leading to a partial tear. Sprains are injuries to a ligament, a tough band of tissue that links two bones together at or near a joint. Commonly sprained joints include the wrist, knee and ankle.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of strains, and more particularly sprains, are very similar to those of a broken bone. There may be pain, particularly on movemenr, 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 as a simple break.

If in doubt, treat the injury as a broken bone and seek further medical help.

First Aid Treatment

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:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  1. 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.
  2. 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 as this may damage the skin. Cool the injury for 10-15 minutes, keeping the compress cold with refills as necessary.
  3. Apply a compressing roller bandage. This will help reduce pain and swelling and will provide support for the injury.
  4. Elevate the injured part. Elevation will help reduce swelling and pain. If the arm is injured, use either the arm or elevation sling, as appropriate, to provide additional support.
  5. Seek medical assistance and make sure the casualty keeps the limb raised and supported until help arrives.

Alternative cold compresses

If ice is not readily available, soak a flannel or other piece of material in very cold water, wring this out and apply to the injury. Replace this every 2-3 minutes as the material warms up. Alternatively, consider the contents of che freezer. Frozen peas, for example, make an excellent cold compress as the bag moulds to the shape of the injury.

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Disclaimer: website is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Always take the advice of professional health care for specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment. We will not be liable for any complications, or other medical accidents arising from the use of any information on this web site. Please note that medical information is constantly changing. Therefore some information may be out of date.