Sprains are injuries in the soft tissue around joints; strains are tears in muscles; and bruises are broken blood vessels under the skin. They are all ‘soft tissue injuries’.

Quick help

  • If the person is conscious, you should confirm that they are happy for you to touch them before you give first aid. If the person is unconscious and you need to check for injuries or give lifesaving first aid, then don’t delay.
  • See a doctor or physiotherapist if the person is still in a lot of pain, has trouble moving the injured area, or if their symptoms aren’t getting better within 2 days of the injury occurring. 
  • Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you are uncertain.


What to look for

Pain and tenderness: The person has pain or tenderness around the injury 

Difficulty moving: The person finds it difficult to move or to put weight on the injured area 

Swelling: The person has swelling around the injury 

Discoloured skin where bruises are forming: The person’s skin is beginning to change colour from a bruise

How you can help

Apply R.I.C.E

  1. Rest
  2. Ice
  3. Compression
  4. Elevation


  • Help the person into a comfortable position. They can take paracetamol or ibuprofen for the pain (follow the directions on the packet/s). 
  • They should rest for 24 hours, but then it’s best to try some gentle movement of the injured area. 


  • Ice can reduce the pain. Apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel or damp cloth for 10-20 minutes at a time. If the person is still in pain, repeat once.  


  • A bandage isn’t always needed, but it can be helpful as a support for an injured limb or joint if there’s bruising or swelling.
  • Wrap a bandage around the injured muscle or joint.
  • Wrap the bandage with a firm, even pressure. Be careful not to wrap too tightly and cut off blood to the fingers or toes.
  • If the bandage is hurting the person, stop using it. 


  • Keep the injured area raised, to reduce swelling. You could rest a leg on some pillows, or put an arm in a sling, for example. 


If you have a person in urgent need of medical attention, call 111 now.  



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