First Aid: Sprains and Strains

Candidates taking St Mark James emergency first aid and standard first aid courses will learn to recognize and provide care for patients with sprains and strains. Sprains and strains are very common injuries are constantly confused. Sprains refer to stretching and tearing of muscles. Strains refer to stretching and tearing of tendons or ligaments. These soft tissue injuries can occur during physical activity or through trauma (impact, force). This page will outline the signs and symptoms and the treatment for both sprains and strains which can be treated equally.

To learn to recognize and care for victims of sprains and strains take a first aid course in your region with one of our training partners. Our first aid training partners are located in Regina, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Calgary, Kelowna, Edmonton, Surrey, Winnipeg and Ottawa. To view the provider in your region select your location from the main or side menu.

Signs and Symptoms of Sprains and Strains

  • Tightness in and difficulty moving the affected area. When a sprain or strain happen the muscles surrounding the area tighten to prevent further injury.
  • Swelling localized in the area of the injury.
  • Discolouration, also known as bruising in the affected area.
  • Pain which can be local or radiating from the affected area.


  • The rescuer should recommend to the patient to rest the injured area. It should be immobilized in a comfortable position.
  • The rescuer should apply ice to the injured area for 10 to 15 minutes every hour until the swelling subsides. This is the most important part of the treatment. Cubes or crushed ice in a plastic bag is a simple and effective method of icing a injury.
  • The rescuer should help the patient compress the injury. If the rescuer has access to a first aid kit, a tensor bandage can be wrapped around the area to prevent further swelling. The rescuer should be careful not to wrap the bandage too tightly to reduce circulation. Distal circulation can be checked below the injured area.
  • If pain is significant, mobility is dramatically affected, and the situation is not improving, the rescuer should recommend that the patient contact medical services.
  • The rescuer should treat the patient for shock.

To learn more about recognizing and treating patients with sprains and strains take a first aid course through St Mark James.


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