How to Treat a Sprained Limb at Home


Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health

At-Home Care for Sprained Limbs

Sprains are painful and inconvenient injuries, and usually happen when you’re least expecting it. They frequently occur during exercise or sports activities. Sometimes, even everyday activities can result in a sprain.

Sprains can range from mild to severe. Mild cases rarely need medical attention, while severe cases may require surgery. You can treat a mild sprain for yourself or a loved one at home, and here’s how!

Identifying a Sprained Limb

How to Treat a Sprained Limb at HomeFor the most part, the symptoms of a sprained limb are readily recognizable.

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Pain and/or tenderness
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscles weakness

There are three grades of sprains, Grade I being the mildest and Grade III being the most severe where the ligament has completely torn or ruptured.

Patients with Grade I or II sprains should still be able to move the affected limb, albeit with pain. A patient with a Grade III sprain may be unable to use the affected limb until it has healed.

Treating Mild Sprains at Home

There are many possible causes of sprains. Falling, twisting, and any movement which forces the joint out of its usual place can all lead to injury. Ankles and wrists are some of the most common types of sprains.

Steps to treat a sprained ankle, wrist, knee, or thumb are much the same. Use the acronym R.I.C.E to remember the steps you’ll need to take.

  • Rest: While this may be challenging when spraining an ankle or knee, staying off the injury and giving it a chance to heal will help you recover much more quickly.
  • Ice: Use ice packs to help reduce any swelling on the area, using them at 20 minute intervals at least four times a day. Always remember to wrap your ice pack in a thin towel before applying it to your skin. An unprotected ice pack can damage your skin.
  • Compression: Put pressure on the injury using a brace, specialty bandage, wrap, boot, or splint. This will help keep the swelling down.
  • Elevation: If possible, keep the injury elevated above your heart to reduce the swelling.

In addition to these four steps, some people find it helpful to use anti-inflammatory painkillers, as well as stretching the injured area when the swelling has started to reduce.

With proper treatment and rest, most people recover from sprained limbs with no lasting effects. By caring for your injury using R.I.C.E., you’ll be back to normal in no time!

Back Muscle Sprains and Strains

It’s possible to strain or sprain your back. The symptoms of back injuries are slightly different than injuries on your arms or legs.

Symptoms of Back Sprains or Strains

  • Back spasms
  • Pain is sudden and possibly intense
  • Lower back may be sore to the touch
  • Pain is localized and does not radiate into the legs
  • Resting improves symptoms, but walking and standing make pain worse

Both of these injuries are treated the same way, usually including a combination of anti-inflammatory medication, massage, muscle relaxants, and rest.

Strain vs Sprain: What’s the Difference?

How to Treat a Sprained Limb at HomeYou may have heard of both strains and sprains when the topic of muscle injuries comes up. They are similar conditions, but are actually two different injuries.

  • A Strain affects muscles and tendons. These injuries can be either stretches or tears.
  • A Sprain affects the ligaments which connect the ends of bones together. This can also be either a stretch or a tear.

What to do for Moderate to Severe Sprains

Grade II and Grade III sprains may make daily activities extremely difficult, if not impossible. In these cases, you will still need to follow R.I.C.E. as above. You will also need to see a doctor. Some Grade III sprains will require surgery in order to properly repair the torn muscle or ligament.

Urgent Care at Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health

While mild to moderate sprains can generally be treated at home, some individuals with sprained limbs may require medical attention.

Seek medical advice if…

  • The limb buckles when you try to use it
  • There is numbness in the affected area
  • There is severe pain and the limb cannot be used
  • The injury has lumps or appears crooked in addition to swelling
  • You are uncertain about the severity of and care for the injury

Injuries never schedule a good time to happen. That’s why the Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health Urgent Care Center is available seven days a week and on holidays. We’re always prepared for the unexpected.


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