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First Aid Tips for Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains can happen to people of all ages, in a range of different environments and under a variety of circumstances. Sometimes even when you do your best to avoid them, sprains and strains still occur. The most common causes are from over stressing your body with intense exercise, jolting movements, falls, trips, slips or being struck by a moving object.

Sprains and strains account for nearly 42% of all serious workplace injuries in Australia. Back and knee injuries are the most common areas affected by these injuries. Overstressing your body is a critical contributor to the onset of a sprain or a strain. If your work environment requires you to perform repetitive manual tasks and other forms of labour-intensive duties you are at risk of suffering from a sprain and a strain.

The correct response and care for any injury is important to ensure no further damage is caused and a swift recovery. For an untrained person, it can be difficult to distinguish between a sprain or a strain. This type of injury takes a toll on the body and can put you out of work for weeks or in some cases, months.

So, if you are frequently exposed to environments where you’re at risk of suffering from a sprain or a strain follow our tips on how to identify the difference so you know the correct way to respond and apply First Aid.


The Differences Between Sprains And Strains

Sprain Strain
When the ligaments which connect a joint together stretches and tears a sprain is caused A strain is caused by the fibres in a muscle or tendon stretching and tearing
A sprain is a result over a joint overextending past its tolerable range of movement Strains are inflicted by overworking the muscle or tendon whilst lifting heavy objects, exercising or making an abrupt uncoordinated movement
If a sprain occurs the casualties range of movement will become minimal, swelling and bruising will develop promptly A strain will inflict an immediate, distinct pain in the affected area. It will cause the area to become weak and tender
A sprain is very painful and the casualty will instantly feel the implications of a sprain Common areas that are susceptible to strains are the groin or hamstrings

Management Of Sprains And Strains

Despite the differences between the two, the treatment is the same

  2. Follow RICE
  • Rest the patient and the injured part
  • apply an Icepack (cold compression) wrapped in a wet cloth for 15 minutes every 2 hours for 24 hours, then for 15 minutes every 4 hours for 24 hours
  • apply a Compression bandage firmly to extend well beyond the injury
  • Elevate the injured area

3. Seek medical aid

Note: If in doubt about the injury, treat as a fracture

Prevalence Of Sprains And Strains

Sprains and strains are commonly caused by exhausting the body and overextended yourself on the sporting field, at the gym or on your favourite running track.

Research revealed that 30% of sports injuries could have been avoided. This includes sprains and strains caused whilst participating in physical activity. Precautions such as stretching before and after exercise can reduce the likelihood of a strain or sprain occurring significantly.

Falls, trips, repetitive manual tasks, labour-intensive tasks or being struck by a moving object can also cause sprains and strains. These instances can occur in any environment, including the workplace.

How To Avoid A Strain Or A Sprain

  • Have breaks and stretch when performing repetitive manual tasks
  • If you have a labour-intensive job, participate in exercise outside of hours to increase your fitness levels
  • Stretch before and after any physical activity
  • Know your limits when exercising
  • Do NOT make any sudden, uncoordinated movements
  • Use a trolley or ask for assistance when moving heavy objects
  • Ensure you are using the correct form when lifting heavy objects

What Is Manual Handling?

Manual handling involves the use of strength to hold, support or restrain an object, person or animal.

How To Safely Lift An Object

  1. Assess the load and ensure it is secure and there are no sharp edges
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly forward than the other
  3. Squat down as close to the object as possible. Use your knees to bend – NOT your back
  4. Get a firm grasp close to your body
  5. Lift the object with your legs, keeping your back and neck straight and the object close
  6. Ensure you can see ahead of you and the floor beneath you
  7. To put down the load follow above instructions in reverse

Sprains and strains are the most commonly reported serious injury in the Australian workplace. The possibility of a sprain or a strain occurring in your workplace is high so it’s imperative all precautions are taken to reduce the risk of it happening to you.

This serious injury can leave you unable to work for weeks or months on end. Can you afford to be away from your work for such an extended period? Most of us can’t, so it’s up to our workplaces and most of all, you, to ensure you do what you can to prevent a sprain or a strain occurring.

Remember, a sprain or a strain doesn’t just occur in the workplace. Ensure you are taking the right precautions when playing sport, being active or participating in any labour-intensive tasks. Your health and safety comes first at all times so take the time to warm up before any physical activity, ensure you are using the correct form when lifting heavy objects or make sure you are taking breaks and stretching when performing repetitive tasks.

Simple precautionary measures like these can mean the difference between whether or not you will be physically capable to go to work tomorrow. Don’t cut corners, make the time and always apply our precautionary tips on how to avoid suffering from a sprain or a strain.

Bitesize Fractures, Sprains, Strains, Dislocations
Bitesize Fractures, Sprains, Strains, Dislocations
Learn how to identify and manage first aid to a casualty suffering a sprain, strain or dislocation in this interactive online course.
RRP $14.95


Suitable for both people in workplaces and members of the public who would like a comprehensive first aid course.

St John first aid training


Learn the skills to perform life-saving (CPR) on an adult, child or infant who is unconscious and not breathing normally. 


St John has a range of​ training locations across Victoria.