Treatment of Sprains and Strains


Whether it’s tripping down the stairs, rolling an ankle while bushwalking or taking a tumble during a game of netball, sprains and strains are not uncommon. These soft tissue injuries are generally characterised by pain, swelling, redness, bruising and reduced function. The most critical time in the treatment of such injuries is in the first 24-48 hours, where the relief of symptoms as well as slowing down the body’s inflammatory response is the aim. The RICER principle is the recommended approach for treating soft tissue injuries.

R – Rest:

The first step is to stop the activity which caused the injury and avoid any activity which may cause further damage. Continued movement increases bleeding and swelling in the area which will impede the healing process. Also, try to avoid putting any weight or pressure on the injured part of the body.

I – Ice:

As soon as possible, begin applying cold packs or ice to the affected area. Ice is effective in reducing pain and swelling. This should be done for 20 minutes at a time and repeated every 2 hours during the day. Continue doing this for 24-72 hours from the time of the injury. Make sure to wrap the ice pack in a cloth or towel to avoid harm – ice should never be applied directly onto the skin.

C – Compression:

A compression bandage is helpful to reduce swelling and internal bleeding at the site of the injury. A bandage should be applied firmly but not so tight as to cause pain or inhibit circulation. Make sure to overlap each layer of the bandage by half the width of the previous layer and to extend it above and below the injury site.

E – Elevation:

Another way to aid recovery is by elevating the injured part. By raising the part above the level of the heart, bleeding and swelling will be slowed down. Perhaps the most comfortable and effective way of achieving this, is by lying down with the injured body part resting on a pillow.

R – Referral:

Finally, it is always advisable to seek expert advice from a qualified medical professional such as a doctor or physiotherapist. This will ensure accurate diagnosis of the injury and comprehensive treatment. Depending on the severity of the injury, mobility and functionality can be permanently compromised if not treated properly so an extended period of rehabilitation may be required to facilitate full recovery.

We have many first aid products available at our Chemistworks stores. Just ask our friendly staff for assistance in selecting the right products to meet your needs.