First Aid for Sprains: Do I Use Ice or Heat?

First Aid for Sprains: Do I Use Ice or Heat?

Sprains are injuries to ligaments that hold your joints together and often result in severe pain, swelling, and bruising. The stretching and tearing within the ligaments can be uncomfortable and limit your range of motion. The most common type of sprain include ankles sprains, knee sprains and wrist sprains.

If you roll your ankle or experience a sprain in another area, you might be wondering, “Do I use ice or heat?” as the best treatment.

Sprains heal more quickly with the right care. So, it’s important to know whether to apply ice or heat as a first aid treatment immediately following a sprain.

Apply Ice for a New Sprain

Cold application decreases bleeding, swelling, pain, and disability associated with bone, joint, and muscle injuries. Therefore, with a sprained ankle or other affected area, you’ll want to cool the injured area immediately.

This is best accomplished with a plastic bag filled with a mixture of ice and water, which is better than using an ice pack or cold compress alone.

However, you’ll need to be mindful and prevent injury to the skin by limiting each cold treatment to no more than 20 minutes.

Additionally, a barrier should be placed between the plastic bag and the skin. For example, a thin towel or piece of clothing both serve as a functional barrier.

Keep in mind that mild sprains can often be treated at home, but severe sprains generally require additional medical advice.

Get First Aid Certified

Need to learn and practice how to properly splint an injured limb? Do you know what to do with a knocked-out tooth or how to treat a minor wound or other common injuries?

A basic first aid course will build your confidence to respond in a variety of medical emergency and non-emergency first aid situations.

Contact your local HSI training center for information about first aid courses near you.

Instructors, make sure you’re using HSI’s newest programs! Find them here.

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