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Sprains & Muscle Injuries
Joint sprains and muscle injuries commonly occur after falls, tripping, overuse or other trauma. The best way to treat such injuries is through rest, ice, compression and elevation (R.I.C.E.). Medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, taken as directed on the package, can be helpful for pain.
Avoid using the injured area as much as possible. Take the bus or use crutches for leg, ankle or foot injuries. Limit writing, texting and typing as much as possible if you have a wrist or hand injury.
Ice helps control swelling and inflammation, and should be used as soon as possible after an injury.
Never put ice directly on the skin. Wrap a bag of ice in a towel or a piece of clothing. If ice is not available, use a bag of frozen vegetables or anything that is cold.
Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time then remove it for 15 to 20 minutes so the area can warm up to room temperature. This should be done as often as possible, especially during the first one to two days.
Compression helps to limit swelling and provide support. An elastic (ACE) bandage usually works best, but athletic tape, a store-bought brace, or even a piece of clothing can be helpful. Fingers or toes can be taped together for support. Be sure that the injury is not wrapped too tight. Loosen or take off any supportive device that causes the area to be painful, numb or more swollen.
Elevation also helps with swelling. Elevate the injured area using a pillow or chair.
When to contact a clinician
- You are unable to move or put any weight on the affected area.
- The affected area is visibly deformed or feels very unstable (“gives out”).
- There has been no improvement in symptoms after one week or symptoms continue to worsen