It is recommended that advanced medical evaluation and treatment be found as soon as possible if any of the following apply:
- There is a "popping" or "cracking" sound at the time of the injury
- The person can't move the injured joint or limb or bear any weight on it
- The limb buckles when the injured joint is used
- There is numbness
- There is significant swelling, pain, fever, or open wounds at the site of the injury
- There is any possible suspicion there is a broken bone; apply a rigid splint and get advanced care.
- The day following the injury the swelling isn't improved at all, the pain isn't diminished at all, or any of the original signs or symptoms are worse.
Mild Joint Strains or Sprains
For both Strains and Sprains the recommendations to control pain and swelling is "RICE" Therapy:
REST the area. If necessary use a sling for and arm injury or crutches for a leg or foot injury. Splint and injured finger or toe by taping it to the adjacent finger or toe.
ICE the area. Approximately 20 min every hour. Never put ice directly against the skin or you may injury it. Instead, make sure there is a layer of cloth or bandage between the cold compress or ice and the skin.
COMPRESS the area. Best done by wrapping with an elastic (ACE) bandage or sleeve around the joint or limb. Specialized braces for the ankle or wrist work better than a plain wrap if available. When wrapping for compression, you do not want the bandage too tight. It should not interfere with circulation.
ELEVATE the area above the level of the heart if possible to help reduce swelling.
If in a remote area with no advanced help available for a long period of time, use the compression bandage until the swelling is gone and you can bear weight without any discomfort when flexing the joint (removing the compression bandage for periods of time when laying down)
How To Wrap An Ankle
- Roll up the elastic bandage if isn't already. Hold the ankle at about a 90 degree angle to the lower leg if possible. Hold the loose end of the bandage to the side of the foot. Wrap the bandage around the ball of the foot once, keeping is somewhat tight with a slight pull.
- Next, slowly start circling your way around the arch of the foot. Pull the bandage diagonally from the bottom of the toes across the foot's top and circle it around the ankle. Then bring the bandage diagonally across the top of the foot and under the arch in a figure-eight pattern.
- When you get to the ankle bone, wrap the bandage around the ankle bone. Continue around the ankle and foot in a figure eight, moving toward the heel on the bottom and toward the calf at the top of the "eight" in your figure eight.
- When complete, the wrap should cover the entire foot and end about 2 inches (7cm) above the ankle. Fasten the wrap with tape or it's fastener if it has one.
- The wrap should be snug but should not cut off circulation to the foot. IF the foot starts to swell around the wrap, tingle or go numb, you wrap is much too tight.
Muscle strains are most common in the lower back, but can happen in other active muscles throughout the body.
Strains typically are felt when the happen, but may appear the following day after significant activity followed by a night's rest; awakening with pain the muscles and area of the strain. Swelling may or may not be present with strains.
Treatment for Strains:
- Rest the area and avoid strenuous activity involving this area until the pain is gone with movement.
- Ice or ice packs to the area for the first 1-2 days of discomfort and injury to reduce swelling. Remember never to place ice directly onto the skin.
- After 1-2 days if ice, switch to heat packs or heating pad if available to improve circulation to the area and speed healing. Just like with ice, use caution with heat against the skin. Never sleep with a heating pad as it may cause burns.
- You do not want to immobilize the area completely. It will stiffen and slow healing. Instead, you want to stretch and move the area very carefully and slowly at regular intervals (every 45 min or so) to the point of mild discomfort in opposite directions for 2-3 repetitions, then return to resting.
- As a rule you want to try and increase your distance and duration of movement as days progress. If you are unable, seek professional medical help.
- For pain, ibuprofen works best if you tolerate it and have no history of stomach ulcers. As a general rule you can take 100mg of ibuprofen per hour (i.e. 100 mg every hour OR 200 mg ever 2 hrs OR 400 mg ever 4 hours, etc.)