Self-Care for Strains and Sprains - Fairview Health Services
 
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Self-Care for Strains and Sprains

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Most minor strains and sprains can be treated with self-care. But if you have torn tissue or damaged blood vessels, nerves, or bones, be sure to call your doctor. Recovering from a strain or sprain may take 6–8 weeks. Your self-care goal is to reduce pain and immobilize the injury to speed healing.

Call Your Doctor If:

  • The injured joint won’t move, or bones make a grating sound when they move.

  • You can’t put weight on the injured area, even after 24 hours.

  • The injured body part is cold, blue, or numb.

  • The joint or limb appears bent or crooked.

  • Pain increases or doesn’t improve in 4 days.

  • When pressing along the injured area, you notice a spot that is especially painful.

Support the Injured Area

Wrapping the injured area provides support for short, necessary activities. Be careful not to wrap the area too tightly. This could cut off the blood supply.

  • Support a wrist, elbow, or shoulder with a sling.

  • Wrap an ankle or knee with an elastic bandage.

  • Tape a finger or toe to the one next to it.

Use Cold and Heat

Cold reduces swelling. Both cold and heat reduce pain. When using cold or heat, always place a towel between the pack and your skin.

  • Apply ice or a cold pack 10–15 minutes every hour you’re awake for the first 2 days.

  • After the swelling goes down, use cold or heat to control pain. Don’t use heat late in the day, since it can cause swelling when you’re not active.

Rest and Elevate

Rest and elevation help your injury heal faster.

  • Raise the injured area above your heart level.

  • Keep the injured area from moving.

  • Limit the use of the joint or limb.

Use Medications

  • Aspirin reduces pain and swelling. (Note: Don’t give aspirin to a child 18 or younger unless prescribed by the doctor.)

  • Aspirin substitutes can reduce pain. Some substitutes reduce swelling, too. Ask your pharmacist which substitutes you can use.

 

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