Identifying Serious Sprains
You or someone around you has fallen, tripped or otherwise suffered a joint injury. There's pain and swelling, and you're worried about the severity of the situation. In a stressful situation like this, someone around will ideally have first aid or medical training, and know how to choose between ice and heat for treatment. Figure out the severity of the injury, and then you can decide whether to apply R.I.C.E. or to get the affected individual to professional medical care immediately.
Almost every sprain involves some level of swelling. This usually occurs relatively quickly after the injury takes place, and is accompanied by a good deal of pain. For minor sprains, try R.I.C.E. treatment: resting, applying ice, compressing the area, and elevating the affected limb or joint above the heart whenever possible.
Rest is essential, and it should start immediately whenever possible. However, one thing to remember is that you should get the injured person away from other danger if necessary. Common examples of dangerous situations are when the injury happens in extreme cold, on a roadway or in the path of other vehicles, such as bicycles.
Since swelling occurs so quickly, try to get some ice or cold water applied as soon as possible. Cold compresses or ice packs for sprains should go on for about 15-20 minutes, four or five times a day.
Compressing is usually one of the least familiar tasks for untrained medics. It's a good idea to check out a few resources on the subject if you're at all nervous about doing your first joint wrapping. Regardless of how intimidating it is to put pressure on a sprain, it is generally accepted to speed recovery and avoid chronic injury.
Swelling should also be easier to manage if you elevate the area. As anyone who's ever had a head rush after doing a handstand can attest, blood tends to flow downwards when it can. The opposite is true: elevating a limb naturally and gently reduces blood flow, which in turn reduces the size of a swollen sprain.
Severe Injury or Complications
Heat and ice do different things to the body, so make sure to apply cold. This type of injury can get better with the right home care, but only if it's relatively minor. Contact medical professionals if the swelling seems out of control, symptoms doesn't get better after a day or two of applying the R.I.C.E. treatment, or if the situation worsens over time. Make sure that you pay attention to progress. A good trick is to snap a few pictures on your phone to track the development or show a medical professional if necessary.