Quick—here’s a test for all you weekend warriors out there: What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain? Answer: A sprain is an injury to the ligaments that support your joints, and a strain is a pulled or overexerted muscle. But all you really need to know is that both hurt like the dickens.
So if you’ve laced up your gym shoes and jumped in to an athletic activity without building up your muscles gradually, you may have overdone it and ended up with a pain-in-the-(fill in the blank)!
The most important thing to do when you strain or sprain anything is easy to remember—RICE. Here’s how to use this handy acronym to feel better in a flash:
- Rest it. Stop the activity and rest the injured body part.
- Ice it. Apply ice wrapped in a towel or a cold compress to decrease swelling.
- Compress it. Wrap the injured limb in an elastic bandage or a splint or sling.
- Elevate it. Keep the injured part elevated above the level of the heart.
Don’t use heat until at least 24 hours after the injury, and not until the swelling has gone down. And by all means, seek medical attention if the pain or swelling is severe.
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