Ligaments are strong, elastic bands that join one bone to another to hold the
joints in place. A sprain is caused by an injury to a ligament due to a partial or complete tear or stretch of its fibers. It can occur in both upper and lower parts of your body and usually occurs in the ankle or the knee. Sprains are often very painful and swell really fast. In case of minor sprains, emergency medical treatment is not required and you can treat the injury yourself. The severity of the sprain can be determined by the amount of pain and swelling.
- Lifting heavy weights or objects
- Sports injuries
- Car accidents and trauma
- Bruising or redness at the affected site
- Inability to move the affected joint
To administer first aid, follow the R.I.C.E. instructions:
- Rest the affected area. You might be told by your doctor to not put any stress on the affected area but it is advisable to not avoid activity completely. You can exercise while resting your injured area at the same time. For example, while cycling, you can use your arms and uninjured leg to perform exercise and rest the injured leg (in case of a leg injury). This will condition your cardiovascular system.
- Ice the affected region. Use a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel to apply pressure on the affected area to reduce swelling and pain. This should be done immediately after the injury and continued for about 20 minutes for at least 4-8 times a day until swelling is reduced. Do not use bare ice for too long as it may cause tissue damage.
- Compress the affected region with a bandage to reduce swelling.
- Elevate the affected limb above heart level if it is practical to do so to encourage blood flow and reduce swelling.
After 48 hours of treatment, start using the affected part of your body gradually and gently. You may use over-the-counter pain relievers to control pain while making gradual movements as movements may cause pain on the first go. Visit your doctor if the injury does not recover after 2-3 days.
Emergency medical treatment is required if:
- You notice signs of infection such as increased pain, streaks of redness, pus or drainage.
- You suspect that the ligament is completely torn because you are unable to move your limb, the affected area is feeling numb or you cannot bear any kind of weight on the injured area.
- You have a history of injuring the same area and have injured it again.
- You feel persistent pain. Chronic pain may develop if you do not treat the injury promptly.
In case of severe the injury, the doctor may perform X-rays or MRI scans to diagnose the severity of the injury to find out if it is caused by a sprain or a broken bone. Your health care provider may immobilize your joint or limb using a cast or a splint for proper healing without further injury. If the injury is fatal, the doctor might resort to surgery.
For More Information
To learn to manage and recognize patients with sprains take a workplace approved training course. Windsor First Aid offers emergency, standard and childcare first aid programs that cover topics such as sprains. For more information or to register click here.
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