You are here:

Strains and sprains

Strains and sprains are common injuries which affect the soft tissues around joints – the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

They happen when the tissues are stretched, twisted or torn by violent or sudden movements, for instance if someone changes direction suddenly, or falls and lands awkwardly.

A sprain is when a ligament has been twisted or torn.

A strain is when the muscle has been overstretched and has partially torn. (A rupture is when a muscle or tendon is completely torn).

Watch our videos - strains and sprains

What to look for - strains and sprains

If you think someone may have strained or sprained a muscle, ligament or tendon, these are the three key things to look for:

  1. 1. Pain and tenderness
  2. 2. Difficulty moving
  3. 3. Swelling and bruising

What you need to do - strains and sprains

Remember RICE for the four steps to deal with strains and sprains:



Comfortable support


Treatment for a strain or sprain

Step 1 of 4: Rest


  • Help them to sit or lie down and support in a comfortable raised position the part they’ve hurt.

Step 2 of 4: Ice


  • To cool the area, apply a cold compress, like an ice pack or cold pad. This will help to reduce the swelling, bruising and pain. Do not leave on for more than ten minutes.

Step 3 of 4:Comfortable support


  • Leave the cold compress in place or wrap a soft layer of padding, e.g. cotton wool, around the area. Tie a support bandage around it, to hold it in place, which goes up as far as the next joint on each side. For example, for an ankle injury, the bandages should go from the base of the toes to the knees.

Step 4 of 4: Elevate


  • Elevate the injury and support it with something soft, like cushions. If the pain is severe, or they can’t use their limb at all, take or send them to hospital. Otherwise, just tell them to rest it and to see a health care professional, if necessary.

Book a first aid course

With thousands of training courses across the country, be the difference between a life lost and a life saved and book now.

Find your course