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How can I treat a sprain?

Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

When treating a sprain, think RICE:

  • Rest: Avoid activities that use the affected body part.
  • Ice: Decreases swelling, bleeding, pain, and inflammation. Apply 2 to 3 times a day, for 10 to 20 minutes, up to 72 hours after an injury.
  • Compress: Direct external pressure will decrease hemorrhaging and bleeding. Elastic wraps can be worn throughout the day and removed at night.
  • Elevate: Raise the injured area to decrease bleeding and prevent fluid accumulation.

Remember the acyronom PRICES:

  • (P): PROTECTION: protect the sprain from furthur injury. this means spliting it  and avoiding any movement which can cause more injury.
  • (R): REST:  avoid any movement, allow sufficent time to rest the injury. Depending 
  •      on the degree of injury this could be days or even a couple of weeks.
  • (I): ICE: apply cold compressions with an ice pack for 10 minutes at a time, then    remove for 20 minutes. Apply up to 3-5xs a day or as needed.
  • (C): COMPRESSION:   Apply moderate pressure to spain during  wrapping make sure pressure is applied distally to proximally (i.e. wrist sparin: from fingers to forearm).
  • (E) ELEVATION: Raise your injury up and keep it level over your heart is it's an upper body injury. For Lower body injury raise leg on up to 2 pillows.
  • (S) STABILIZATION: Keep injury stable, do not move it any way if possible.

Here are some tips for taking care of a sprain or strain:

Do the "R.I.C.E." treatment:

  • R — Rest. Don't exercise the hurt area for a few days. It's okay to move it gently.
  • I — Ice. Put ice in a plastic bag, and hold it on the area. Keep it there for 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours for the first day or so after the injury. But do not do this if you have diabetes or a circulation problem.
  • C — Compression. Wrap the area with an elastic bandage, like an ACE bandage. Begin wrapping at the end farther from your heart. Don't wrap it too tightly. Loosen it if the area gets numb.
  • E — Elevation. Keep the hurt area raised up higher than your heart. For example, you can put a sprained ankle up on a pillow while you watch TV, read a book or sleep.

Treat pain with medicine. If the pain is bad, use acetaminophen (like Tylenol) or ibuprofen (like Advil). Do not give aspirin to a child or teenager—it increases risk for a serious problem called Reye's syndrome.

A sprain is typically treated with RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You may also take acetaminophen or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen for pain management. I’m a big advocate of getting a child into physical therapy and range of motion exercises quickly, because it gets people moving and back to activities faster than people who rely on crutches and bed rest for a period of time. Return to play will be determined based on how your child is handling the sprain and what he or she feels capable of doing. A good simple guide is, “If it still hurts, don’t do it.”

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.