First Aid Classes – Strains and Sprains

Strains and sprains are damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons

which surround bones and joints. However do you know the difference between a strain and a sprain and how to treat them? First Aid Classes will teach you.


A strain is a muscle or tendon injury that connects muscle to bone. This could be caused by over-stretching, usually during sporting activities, or even a partial tear. However, muscles and tendons may also be ruptured, where they are torn completely.

Deep bruising can occur and can be significant if the damage has occurred in a part of the body with a large bulk of muscle. There is bleeding into surrounding tissues which causes the patient pain, swelling and bruising.


A sprain is an injury to ligaments, which are the tissue that connect bone to other bone, normally caused by stretching or tearing the tissue.


Both stains and sprains have the same symptoms as explained in the workplace approved First Aid manual. They both cause the patient pain and tenderness to the area. They will experience difficulty in the movement of the area, particularly if the injury is to a joint. And you may notice swelling and bruising to the area.


Nonetheless, treatment of these injuries are the same despite their subtle differences so it is not too important to be able to distinguish between the two.

The first aid treatment for strains and sprains taught in workplace approved Training is ‘RICE’.

R- Rest the injured part

I- Ice or cold compress

C- Compress

E- Elevate

The above treatment will help to relieve the patients symptoms. Your aims as a first aider are to reduce the swelling and pain, and obtain medical help if necessary. Be cautious, if you are in any doubt over the severity of the injury, treat it as a fracture as a precaution.

You should advise the patient to rest, they should sit or lie down. You can assist the patient by helping to support the injured body part in the most comfortable position for the patient.

The ice or cold compress should be used if the injury has just happened according to First Aid Classes, and this will reduce swelling, bruising and pain.

Strains and SprainsApplying pressure or compression to the area can be done by padding the area with materials such as cotton wool or plastic foam, and then bandaging around it to secure. Remember to check the circulation every ten minutes. This is essential to ensure the bandage is not too tight, and that it does not become too tight as the area becomes inflamed.

Raising and elevating the injury reduces the blood flow to the area. This may sound like a bad thing however this will actually in turn reduce bruising.



First Aid Manual (The Authorised Manual of St. John Ambulance, St Andrew’s Ambulance Association and the British workplace approved), 2006.,


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