Emergency advice

How to treat a strain or sprain:

  1. R- Rest injured area.
  2. I- apply an Ice pack.
  3. C- provide Comfortable support.
  4. E- Elevate the injured part. 

Signs and symptoms of sprains and strains

Look for:

  • pain and tenderness
  • swelling and bruising
  • difficulty moving the injured area, especially if it’s a joint.

What to do

  1. Resting a strain or sprain

    R – Rest the injured part. Help them to sit or lie down and support the injured part in a comfortable position, raised if possible.

  2. Putting ice on a strain or sprain

    I – Apply an Ice pack or cold compress. Try and cool the area by putting an ice pack, or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel against the injury.  This can help to reduce the swelling, pain and bruising. This should be left on for a maximum of 20 minutes.

  3. sprain-strain-support

    C – Provide Comfortable support. Use blankets, cushions, jackets and soft padding to support the injury.  Offer simple analgesic to manage the pain such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.  Never give aspirin to under 16 year olds.

  4. Elevating a strain or sprain

    E - Elevate the injured part. Support the injury in an elevated position to help minimise swelling and bruising. You could do this by placing pillows underneath the injured part.

  5. First aid - call 999 or 112 for emergency help

    After using the RICE method, advise the casualty to rest. If the pain is severe or they cannot move the injured part, seek medical advice.

Browse our first aid products:

First aid dressings, bandages and tape

First aid dressings, bandages and tape

Shop now

First aid ice packs and heating pads

First aid ice packs and heating pads

Shop now

Our training courses:

First aid courses

First aid courses


Related first aid advice

Who should I call?

At some point in their life, most people will witness or be involved in an accident or medical emergency. Knowing what to do and when you should call the emergency services can potentially save lives.

How to do the primary survey

Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and check the casualty for injuries or conditions that could be immediately life threatening. Find out what to do.


Bruises can be painful and tender. Find out what causes bruising and what to do.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support