Sprains and strains

Choose the right healthcare service to get the care you need and to enable the NHS to help the greatest number of people.

GREEN Self-care or ask a pharmacist for advice

Pain, tenderness, or weakness – often around the ankle, foot, wrist, thumb, knee, leg or back

Injured area is swollen or bruised

Cannot put weight on the injury or use it normally

Muscle spasms or cramping

For the first couple of days, follow RICE therapy:

Rest – stop any exercise or activities and try not to put any weight on the injury

Ice – apply an ice pack (or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel) to the injury for up to 20 minutes every two to three hours

Compression – wrap a bandage around the injury to support it

Elevate – keep it raised on a pillow as much as possible to help prevent swelling

Avoid heat, alcohol, and massages for a couple of days

When able to move the injured area without pain keep moving it so the joint or muscle does not become stiff

Paracetamol can ease the pain

Avoid anti-inflammatories i.e. ibuprofen, as they may slow healing of soft tissue injuries. Anti-inflammatories and aspirin may also make bruising worse.

Ask a pharmacist about the best sprain and strain home treatments

AMBER It is urgent but not life threatening

The injury is not feeling better after self-care at home treatment

Pain or swelling is getting worse

High temperature, hot and shivery

CalI 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk


Visit an Urgent Treatment Centre at:

  • Mary’s Community Health Campus, Portsmouth
  • Gosport War Memorial Hospital
  • Petersfield Hospital

RED It is a life-threatening medical emergency

A crack was heard when the injury happened

The injured body part has changed shape or is at an odd angle

The injury is numb, discoloured, or cold to touch

Call 999, or go immediately Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham or call 999.