How to treat sprains and/or strains

If this is an emergency, please call 000 immediately.

What is a sprain and a strain?

It can be difficult to tell whether an injury is a fracture, dislocation, sprain or strain. If in doubt, always treat as a fracture.

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments and capsule at a joint in the body. A strain is an injury to muscles or tendons.

This guide is regularly updated and aligns with the current edition of Australian First Aid (4th edition, 7/2011)

Signs and Symptoms


      • Intense pain
      • Restricted movement of the injured joint
      • Rapid development of swelling and bruising


      • Sharp, sudden pain in the region of the injury
      • Usually loss of power
      • Muscle tenderness


What to do




Follow RICE:


  • Rest – rest the patient and the injured part
  • Ice – apply an ice pack or cold pack for 15 minutes every 2 hours for 24 hours, then for 15 minutes every 4 hours for 24 hours
  • Compression – apply a compression bandage firmly to extend well beyond the injury
  • Elevation – elevate the injured part.


Avoid HARM:


  • Heat
  • Alcohol
  • Running or other exercise of the injured area
  • Massage.

Seek medical aid.



Sprains and strains fact sheet

DRSABCD poster

Related advice


It can be difficult to tell whether an injury is a fracture, dislocation, sprain or strain. If in doubt, always treat it as a fracture. We’ve put together a handy first aid guide for fractures.

Spinal and neck injuries

In the case of suspected neck or spinal injury, it’s imperative not to move the patient. If the patient is unconscious as a result of a head injury, you should always suspect a spinal injury.

Asthma attack

Most people who experience asthma attacks should have an action plan and medication with them at all times. Here is a fact sheet of what to do if someone has an asthma attack.

Courses that teach this skill

✮ Most Popular Course

Provide First Aid

For both those in workplaces and members of the public who would like a comprehensive first aid course.

1 day face-to-face, Assessment Only, and our 100% online options available.

✮ Popular Course


For those wanting to learn CPR, maintain their competence, or refresh their existing skills.

2 hour face-to-face plus pre-learning, Assessment Only and our 100% online course options available.

✮ Popular Course

Occupational First Aid

For those in high-risk work environments, high-risk remote locations, or undertaking high-risk work activities such as operating heavy machinery.
3.5 and 4.5 day face-to-face with
pre-learning, and our Assessment Only course options available.

Equipment used

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out