Strains & Sprains:


The symptoms of Sprains & Strains:

  • Pain.
  • Swelling and inflammation.
  • Loss of movement.



A strain occurs when the muscle fibres stretch or tear. They occur usually for one of two reasons:

  • When the muscle has been stretched beyond its limits.
  • When the muscle has been forced to contract (shorten) too quickly.

The most common types of strains are:

  • Hamstring: The muscles that runs down the back of the leg and are attached to the knee and the hip.
  • Gastrocnemius and soleus: Medical names for the muscles in the calf.
  • Quadriceps: Muscle located at the front of the thigh.
  • Lumbar: Muscles found in the lower back.



A sprain occurs when one or more ligaments have been stretched, twisted or torn. (Ligaments are strong bands of tissue around joints that connect one bone to another and help top keep them together and stabilise them).

The most common types of sprains to occur are:

  • The knee: When turning quickly during sports or other physical activities.
  • The ankle: If walking or running on an uneven surface.
  • The wrist: Possibly when falling onto the hand.
  • The thumb: During intense and repetitive activity such as racquet games.


Signs & Symptoms:

  • Pain.
  • Tenderness.
  • Swelling.
  • Difficulty in moving the injure limb.



Treatment principle to follow RICE:

  • R = Rest: Rest the injury.
  • I = Ice: Apply an Ice pack ASAP. (Do not apply directly to the skin).
  • C = Compression: Apply a supporting bandage to the injured limb.
  • E = Elevation: Elevating the limb will reduce swelling.


The outlook for sprains is usually good and most people will be able to resume normal activity within 6-8 weeks


For muscle strains it depends on the location and the severity. For example a minor hamstring should resolve within about 3 weeks whereas a severe quadriceps strain may take several months.



  • Do not constrict blood flow to the injures limb by applying the compression bandage to tightly.
  • If you have any doubt as to whether it's a strain or sprain you will need to eliminate a fracture by having an x-ray.
  • Ice should be placed/wrapped in a piece of cloth, place on or around the limb for 10 minutes, every 2 hours, 24 hours max.



We hope you find this article useful. This is one in an alphabetical series of articles addressing various symptoms and their first aid treatments. If you would like more information on related resuscitation and first aid training, please get in touch.


You might also be interested in our blog. One of our more popular articles is about when to dial 999.


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