Meanwhile, rest, ice, compression and elevation (called RICE) usually will help minimize damage caused by sprains and strains. You should start RICE immediately after the injury.

RICE relieves pain, limits swelling and speeds healing, and it is often the best treatment for soft-tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains. Here's what to do:

  • Rest: The injured area should be moved as little as possible to allow healing to begin.
  • Ice: Apply it immediately to reduce inflammation, which causes more pain and slows healing. Cover the injured area with an ice pack for about 20 to 30 minutes, three to four times a day.
  • Compression: Using a pressure bandage helps to prevent or reduce swelling. Use an elastic bandage. Wrap the injured area without making it so tight that it will cut off the blood supply.
  • Elevation: Raise the injured area above the level of the heart. Prop up a leg or arm while resting it. You may need to lie down to get your leg above your heart level.

Do all four parts of the RICE treatment at the same time. If you suspect a more serious injury, such as a broken bone, call your health care provider immediately.

Prevention

No one is immune to sprains and strains, but here are some tips developed by the AAOS to help reduce your injury risk: