top of page

First Aid 

Strains and Sprains

Strains and sprains are both soft tissue injuries, typically involving muscles, tendons, or ligaments. A strain involves overstretching a muscle or tendon while a sprain is characterized by the stretching or tearing (partially or completely) of a ligament. Ligaments connect bone to bone whole tendons connect muscle to bone. Strains and sprains are often associated with playing sports. Typically, strains and sprains involve pain, swelling, bruising, and/or immobility.


Seek medical care immediately if any of the following symptoms arise:

  • Inability to bear weight on the injured area

  • Instability or numbness in a joint

  • Pain directly over bone

  • Redness or spreading red streaks

  • The injured area has previously been injured

To treat a strain or a sprain, follow RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation. Thus, take the following steps:

  1. Have the injured person sit down and rest the injured area.

  2. Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the injured area for 10-15 minutes four to eight times per day until swelling improves. Do not use ice too long. 

  3. Compress the injured area with an elastic wrap or a bandage. Check circulation after applying. 

  4. Elevate the injured area above heart level. 

  5. Use over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen if you feel it is necessary. Make sure to read all labels on medications, follow all instructions and precautions, and to not exceed the recommended dosages.


Austin, M., Crawford, R., & Armstrong, V. J. (2014). First aid manual. (G. M. Piazza, Ed.) (5th ed.). DK Publishing.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, June 6). Sprain: First aid. Mayo Clinic.

bottom of page