5 Tips to Help You Deal With a Sprain
a blog by My Emergency Room Abilene
If you’re an active person, chances are you’ll experience a sprain at some point in your life. A sprain is a type of strain that happens when you stretch or overexert a ligament — the soft tissue that connects bones to another bone and allows them to move as needed.
Unfortunately, sprains can be extremely painful, and they can take weeks or months to heal. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to help relieve the pain and speed up recovery time.
Read on for five tips on how you can deal with a sprain more effectively.
Keep the area elevated
You’ll want to keep the injured area elevated above the level of your heart expressly after the injury occurs. This will help reduce swelling and ease pain. You can use a few different pieces of equipment to keep the limb elevated, like a pillow, rolled-up towel, or lift.
If you are near a hospital, they may have a special device they can use to keep the affected area elevated. Elevating the limb will reduce swelling and help you heal faster. Make sure to keep the limb elevated as much as possible for 48 hours after the sprain occurs.
If you have a crutch or walker, you can use one of these to prop up the injured limb while you walk.
Use an ice pack
As soon as you’ve elevated the injury, apply ice to the injured area to reduce swelling and help control pain. You can use an ice pack, frozen bag of peas, or even a plastic bag of ice cubes. Wrap the ice pack in a thin towel or cloth to protect the skin from frostbite.
Apply the ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes every couple of hours. Even though icing the injury will cause some discomfort, you should also take over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help control the swelling and pain.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever
As soon as possible, take an over-the-counter pain reliever. You can use either acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol, while ibuprofen is found in Advil. However, if you have liver or kidney disease, you should avoid taking acetaminophen.
While both medications will help relieve swelling and pain, they have different advantages. Acetaminophen doesn’t have the same blood thinning effects as ibuprofen, which is why it’s generally suggested for people who have a history of blood clots, are at risk for heart disease, or have high blood pressure.
As your pain and swelling begin to subside, begin gentle stretching exercises. Stretching will help restore range of motion to the injured ligaments and help you regain full range of motion sooner.
Start with gentle stretches. You don’t want to re-injure your body by doing too much too soon. Stretch the affected muscle group for 15 to 30 seconds and then hold the stretch for another 15 to 30 seconds before releasing.
Do this 2 or 3 times a day. Choose stretches that target the injured area. For example, if you have a lower back sprain, try doing a lying upper-extremity (arms) stretch.
This stretch involves lying on your back with your arms stretched over your head. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and push your arms toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch in the muscles along the lower part of your back.
See a doctor if you’re still in pain
If your pain and swelling are gone and you’ve been following the steps above for a few weeks and you’re still experiencing pain, make an appointment with your doctor or go to an express clinic.
Your doctor can assess your injury to determine if you need additional treatment, such as an injection, to help ease your pain and help you heal more quickly.
When it comes to sprains, it’s best to take care of them quickly. The sooner you address the injury, the more quickly you’ll heal and be able to get back to doing the things you enjoy.
Sprains are common types of injuries that can happen to anyone, regardless of age or activity level. You can help prevent sprains by wearing the right gear for your activity and stretching before you start.
If you do sprain an ankle or another part of your body, follow these tips to help you recover more quickly.