Health conditions


A sprain is when ligaments (the tissues that hold bones together) are suddenly stretched or torn.

Sprains usually occur in joints such as ankles, knees, wrists or fingers.

You may have pain, tenderness or swelling of the affected joint.

You may not be able to move the joint very well. A joint can take up to eight weeks to heal.


  • rest the injury for at least 48 hours
  • use pain relief as directedplace ice pack on the injury for 15 to 20 minutes each hour for the first 24 to 48 hours to reduce swelling and pain
  • compress the injury by using a firm bandage or a tight stocking to help reduce swelling
  • elevate the limb above the level of the heart to help reduce swelling and pain
  • exercise after the initial swelling to help to repair and restore the limb.

Do not

  • wrap the bandage too tightly
  • sleep whilst wearing the compression bandage
  • engage in vigorous exercise.

See your family GP or go to the emergency department if any of the following develop:

  • your swelling or pain is getting worse after following the advice given by this sheet
  • your toes or fingers below the injury feel cold, numb or are blue.
  • you have persistent pain or any other problems.

Where to get help

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.

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