Safety and first aid

First aid for sprains and strains

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of a sprain can include:

  • intense pain
  • restricted mobility
  • swelling and bruising around injury joint develops quickly.

Symptoms of a strain can include:

  • sharp, sudden pain in the injury region
  • loss of power
  • tender muscle.

If there is a lot of pain, manage the injury as a fracture and seek medical aid.

Managing a sprain or strain

1. Follow the DRSABCD action plan.

2. Follow the RICE management plan:

  • Rest the patient and the injury
  • Apply an icepack (cold compress) wrapped in a wet cloth to the injury for 15 minutes every 2 hours for 24 hours and then for 15 minutes every 4 hours for 24 hours
  • Apply a compression elastic bandage firmly to the injury that extends well beyond the injury
  • Elevate the injured part.

3. Seek medical aid.

Where to get help

  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance
  • See your doctor
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222

This information provided by

Logo: St John Ambulance Australia


St John Ambulance Australia

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.