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Emergency Department

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains happen when muscles and ligaments are injured. Sometimes they are called soft tissue injuries. An x-ray may be taken but it is not always necessary.

There is often a combination of pain, swelling and bruising which sometimes takes a day or so to develop. It can take up to 6 - 8 weeks for the pain and stiffness to settle completely.

In the first 24 hours it is important to:

1. Rest the injured limb and elevate it, for example you should sit with your foot raised above the level of your bottom or your hand above the level of your shoulder. If you have been given a sling or a pair of crutches you should use them.

2. Use ice (or something like frozen peas) wrapped in a damp tea towel over the swelling 4 - 6 times a day. Do not leave it close to your skin for more than 10 minutes at a time.

You may have been provided with an elastic support stocking to help reduce the swelling. When it is applied it is in a double layer. It should not be folded over any more and should be taken off at night.

Minor sprains are best treated by early gentle exercise. This should be done regularly throughout the day to prevent stiffness. It will be uncomfortable but will not be doing any harm.

Taking regular painkillers such as paracetamol. If you do not feel things are improving after the first couple of weeks you should contact your GP unless we have told you otherwise.

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