Most sprains and strains can be treated at home and will heal in 2 to 3 weeks.
Proper treatment focuses on alleviating the pain, controlling the swelling, and most importantly, resting the area while it is healing. If you need to see your primary healthcare practitioner for a strain or a sprain, home care techniques can be useful in treating the injury until you are able to see a professional. Prompt and effective home care can help control the swelling, limit the pain of the injury and start you on the road to rehabilitation. Some self-help tips to keep in mind when faced with a sprain or strain:
Stop and rest when you feel pain. Don't continue doing whatever caused the injury; you will only make the injury worse.
If the injury is to a hand or a finger, remove any rings immediately. This will avoid having to cut jewelery off later in case there is swelling to the area as a ring on a swollen finger can restrict blood flow to the finger tip.
Take a pain reliever such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling. Aspirin should be avoided since it interferes with the clotting process of the blood in injured vessels that may have been broken during the injury.
Use RICER (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Rehabilitation) to treat the injured area:
Rest the injured area for 24 to 48 hours.
Ice the injured area for 10 to 15 minutes at two-hour intervals for the first 48 to 72 hours. An ice pack will help reduce swelling and inflammation. (A bag of frozen peas or corn works well for this and can be reused as an ice pack.) Ice should not be put directly on the skin but applied while wrapped in a towel. After the first three days of ice application, you may begin applying heat and ice alternately to the injured area. Use an ice pack or ice water bath for 10 minutes; then use hot water immersion, a moist hot towel, or a heating pad for 10 minutes; and follow this with ice again for 10 minutes. Do this two to three times per day.
Compress the injured area by wrapping it tightly with an elastic bandage for 30 minutes, then unwrapping it for 15 minutes. Repeat this cycle several times. Start the wrap at the point farthest from the heart and move towards the heart. Compression will help control the swelling and will give support to the area. For ankles, adding a horseshoe or doughnut pad around the ankle before wrapping can help prevent fluid from building up in the back of the ankle between the Achilles tendon and the anklebones. If that area fills with fluid, the ankle cannot flex well, and healing and rehabilitation time increases.
Elevate the injured area to reduce swelling and promote the draining of fluids. Elevation is especially important if the injury is to an arm or leg.
Rehabilitate the injured area.
Refrain from using the injured area while it heals.
Gradually add weight and movement after two days.