Sprains and strains

Sprains and Strains- Where Should I Go?

Sprains and strains are an unwelcome injury, and are particularly common after hours. You might have a sporting injury that happens at the weekend or your child injures themselves after school – however it happens, it can be a painful injury to deal with and not always appropriate to wait until the next day. Our out of hours services can help manage your sprain or strain so you can get back on your feet again.

How do sprains and strains occur?

Sprains and strains can occur through many everyday activities usually caused by slipping or awkward movement. A sprain happens when you tear or twist your ligaments and tends to happen in areas such as your ankles, wrists and knees. Meanwhile a strain (or pulled muscle) occurs when a muscle is stretched too far and is common with backs, knees and legs. The pain can be very uncomfortable and you may experience swelling around the area as well as being unable to bear weight on the area.

After sustaining a sprain or a strain, you might not be able to tell if one of those is the cause of your injury or if you’ve suffered a break/fracture. If the pain tends to be in the area around the bone, rather than directly related to it, it’s likely to be a sprain/strain. You’ll need to have it examined by a doctor to rule out a broken or fractured bone and to help make sure that you get the right treatment.

It’s difficult to prevent sprains and strains, as they can happen with many different activities and movements. If you exercise, you should always warm up before you start to wake up your muscles as cold muscles are more prone to injury.

Treating a sprain or strain yourself

If you suffer a sprain or strain and are confident it’s not a break, you can and should treat it yourself at home. The RICE method is a great way to help alleviate pain and can reduce the swelling in the affected area:

REST – Refrain from doing any activities that could aggravate your injury and avoid putting weight on it where possible.

ICE – Use a bag of frozen peas (or other vegetable) or an ice pack on the injury. You should do this for up to 20 minutes every couple of hours.

COMPRESSION – Support the injury by wrapping a bandage round it. It’s a good idea to stock up on some compression bandages for your first aid kit, particularly if there are a lot of active bodies in your home.

ELEVATE – To reduce the swelling further, you should keep the affected injury raised, such as on a pillow. You can do this while applying your ice pack.

It may be tempting to jump into a hot bath after a strain or sprain but you should try avoiding heat for a couple of days after your injury.

Getting help from the pharmacist

If you’re struggling to manage the swelling or are experiencing a lot of pain after your injury, you can go to your local pharmacist for advice. Your pharmacist will be able to advise on compression aids as well as different pain medication – there may gels and creams suitable to rub into the swollen area to help relieve inflammation.

When to seek medical attention

It’s important that you don’t rush to A&E to get help for your injury. As most sprains and strains will heal themselves with a bit of care and home treatment, you could be taking up valuable time that could be used on severe emergencies. Your injury should feel better in around two weeks and after eight weeks you should be able to resume normal exercise provided you don’t overdo it.

If, however, you find that your injury is not healing or you can’t put weight on it or are experiencing numbness – book an appointment with your GP. You can also make an appointment out of hours by calling 111.

Treating a sprain or strain is a good example of self-care. Practicing self-care is important to free up emergency waiting rooms and GP appointments for those more in need. Be cautious when you’re out and about and exercise safely to help avoid the misery of strains and sprains.