This section covers what you should try to do for the first 24 to 48 hours after suffering a mild sprain, strain or sports injury. Recovery is often dependant on type of injury and location of problem.

These injuries can be treated by using the PRICE principal which is explained below. If however your symptoms fail to improve with the advice below please complete the Self Referral Form.

Protection

Protect or support your injured body part for the first 24 to 48 hours after injury. Use a sling or a splint if that helps.

Rest or Move

Should I be resting or moving?

  • Rest your injured body part for first 24 to 48 hours, avoiding activities that cause additional pain, swelling, or discomfort.
  • Try to move your injured body part gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you are awake.
  • You should still go about normal daily activities as much as possible but avoid further strain by taking regular rests.

After 48 hours

  • You should try to use the painful area more.
  • Do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work. This is important and the best way to get better.
  • Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement.

If your injury is in your leg you can reduce the strain on it by:

  • Leading with your good leg when going upstairs.
  • Leading with your problem leg when going downstairs
  • Using a handrail if there is one.

Ice

  • If you have had an injury or flare-up in the last two days, wrap crushed ice in a damp towel and hold it for five to ten minutes against the part of your body that hurts. You can do this every two to three hours. Make sure you use a damp towel between the ice and the skin to avoid ice burn.
  • Alternatively, you could try sports sprays and gel packs, which do a similar job.

Compression

Apply compression with a bandage or tubigrip type of support until the swelling goes down. Loosen the bandage if the pain increases or the area becomes numb. Wrap the bandage starting from the end farthest from your heart. Caution: do not make the bandage too tight and do not wear tubigrip or any compression bandage in bed at night.

Elevation

Elevate the injured body part above the level of your heart as much as possible during the first 24 to 48 hours, especially when sitting or lying down. Make sure the body part is supported eg. with pillows or slings.

Painkillers

Should I take painkillers?

  • Painkillers can help you keep moving. However, it is important that if you are already taking medication for something else or have other health problems you check with the pharmacist at your local chemist before taking painkillers for your problem.
  • You can use simple, over-the-counter painkillers (such as paracetamol) or anti-inflammatory medicines (such as ibuprofen) to help your pain. You can take both these medicines together.
  • Always follow the instructions on the packet.
  • You can only take two 500mg paracetamol every four to six hours, and no more than eight 500mg paracetamol in 24 hours. You should not take any more than this amount.
  • You can only take three 400mg ibuprofen a day. You should not take ibuprofen if you have stomach problems such as ulcers, have had a previous allergic reaction to ibuprofen or an injury in the last 48 hours. Always take ibuprofen with or just after food. Don't take ibuprofen if you are pregnant.
  • If you have asthma, ibuprofen may make it worse, but if you have taken it before with no problems then you can safely take it again. If you are not sure, speak to your pharmacist.
  • Take them regularly, not just when you are sore, for the next three to four days only.

If you feel you still need pain relief after four days then speak to your pharmacist for advice.

Work

You will recover faster and everybody will benefit if you can stay at or get back to work as early as possible. Don’t worry if you still hurt, as you may only have to do light work at first. Try to stay active and remember to keep moving. Speak to your manager about any concerns you may have.

Sports

You should take time before you take part in any sports after an injury. If you take part in sports too soon you could flare things up again. You should have no swelling and be able to move your injured body part properly. You should have full or close to full strength. If the problem is in your leg then you should be able to take your weight through your leg without limping. Remember to stretch and warm up fully before sports.

Doctor

Do I need to see my doctor?

  • Not normally. If you follow the right advice and take the right medication, your injury should improve over the next six weeks.

If you experience a sudden onset of any of the following you either need to attend A&E or contact NHS111 as soon as possible.

  • Difficulty putting weight on your leg.
  • Unable to move the sore area at all.
  • Swelling that gets worse and worse.
  • Signs that your circulation is being restricted eg. changes to the colour of your skin.
  • Misshapen bones or joints.
  • Pain that gets worse and worse.

If your condition progressively worsens or persists for longer than 6 weeks you need to seek further medical advice.