A sprain causes pain, swelling and loss of movement of the affected part. There may also be bruising, or a blue discoloration.
This happens because the small blood vessels and fibers in the flesh burst, causing blood to enter the surrounding tissue. This results in swelling and the blue coloring.
A sprain is due to damage to a ligament, which is usually due to a stretching or awkward movement to a joint, eg a twisted ankle.
A bruise happens when the skin is exposed to such a hard blow that the blood vessels break.
What should I do about a sprain?If you have a sprain, you will also suffer pain. The injured area must be kept still or the bleeding in the tissue will continue more intensely.
The most important treatment for a sprain is: protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation (PRICE).
ProtectionProtect the injured part from further injury, eg foot support or insole.
RestRest is important to ensure that healing occurs as quickly as possible. You should rest the injured area for at least one or two days, because the bleeding can continue for up to 24 hours.
If possible, the sprained area should be kept straight – an arm, for example, can be supported in a sling. Try to keep the injured area in the same position while you are sleeping, perhaps by placing a couple of pillows under your sprain.
IceSince blood enters the tissues when you have a sprain, the main thing is to limit the bleeding. This can be done by cooling.
Try the following techniques.
Stop the cooling long before your skin turns white or hard. Contact a doctor if your skin does not regain its usual colour after the process has stopped.
It's a good idea to cool the skin for 15 minutes, stop for 15 minutes, then cool again, and so on.
Usually, the cooling is felt in different ways. This can range from cold to painful, burning and finally numbing.
Be careful if you are diabetic. To prevent damage to your blood circulation, do not cool an area without consulting your doctor.
CompressionYou can also wrap bandages around the damaged area to prevent movement.
Most people use a pressure bandage at first, followed by tape when the swelling has disappeared.
If you are wearing bandages, it's important to monitor the area surrounding them. If this becomes blue-coloured and the surrounding tissue seems cold, you should remove the bandages and contact a doctor.
ElevationThe injured area shouldn't point downwards, otherwise fluid build-up may occur. This prolongs the healing process and causes more pain.
How can I relieve the pain?The most important treatment for a sprain is protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation, as described above.
However, the pain experienced following a sprain can also be relieved with over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol (eg Panadol) or paracetamol and codeine (eg Panadol ultra).
Good adviceAsk a pharmacist for advice on which painkillers are suitable for you.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (eg Nurofen, Advil), used to be frequently recommended following a sprain, because they reduce the inflammation and swelling as well as relieving pain.
However, inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process. It limits movement to prevent further damage to the joint and also initially helps to repair the damaged tissue.
There is now some suggestion that reducing inflammation with this type of painkiller can actually slow down the healing process in the long-term. It's considered best to avoid these types of painkillers in the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury.
Advertisement - Continue Reading BelowWhen to consult a doctor
As with any activity, warm up slowly and use stretching exercises to begin with.
If it's possible to stay physically active without further injuring the sprained area, do so.
Keep your other muscles functioning and maintain physical fitness. It may take up to three months after an ankle sprain to return to full sporting activity.
How to treat bruisesBruises and swellings are caused by bleeding under the skin.
Again, bruises are best treated with cooling. To do this, follow the instructions given above for cooling treatment of sprains.
If you seem to be bruising easily or without any reason, see your GP who can advise you further.
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