Winter means icy and slippery conditions bringing risks of falling victim to slips and trips.
That’s why advice from NHS North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is to ‘use your head when it comes to your feet.’
But if you are unlucky enough to take a tumble and suffer a sprain or a strain, local GPs assure that if they are mild to moderate, they can be easily treated home – it is not always necessary to visit your GP or your A&E department.
Two words which are really important and well-worth remembering when it comes to sprains and strains are PRICE and HARM. Here’s what we mean:
PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation.
- Protection – protect the injured area from further injury, by using a support or, in the case of an ankle injury, wearing shoes that enclose and support your feet, such as lace-ups.
- Rest – stop the activity that caused the injury, and rest the injured joint or muscle. Avoid activity for the first 48 to 72 hours after injuring yourself. Your GP may recommend you use crutches.
- Ice – for the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury, apply ice wrapped in a damp towel to the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours during the day. Do not leave the ice on while you are asleep, and do not allow the ice to touch your skin directly because it could cause a cold burn.
- Compression – compress or bandage the injured area to limit any swelling and movement that could damage it further. You can use a crepe bandage or a simple elastic bandage available from a pharmacy. It should be wrapped snugly around the affected area but not so tightly that it restricts blood flow. Remove the bandage before you go to sleep.
- Elevation – keep the injured area raised and supported on a pillow to help reduce swelling. If your leg is injured, avoid having long periods of time where your leg is not raised.
HARM – For the first 72 hours after a sprain or muscle strain you should avoid:
- Heat – such as hot baths, saunas or heat packs (applying a controlled amount of heat to affected joints)
- Alcohol – drinking alcohol will increase bleeding and swelling and decrease healing
- Running – or any other form of exercise that could cause more damage
- Massage – which may increase bleeding and swelling
Demand on emergency services increases dramatically during the winter but it is important that people stop and think: does this illness or injury really need emergency treatment? Many people who attend hospital A&E departments don’t really need to be there. If they do need medical care, there are other NHS services which are more appropriate.
Dr Khaled Naeem, a Batley GP and the CCG’s clinical lead for urgent care said: “We want people to stay well this winter but we realise slips and falls can be inevitable especially when conditions are icy, and older people are often more vulnerable. But sprains and strains, if mild to moderate can be treated safely at home, so that our accident and emergency service is left for those people who need it.
“If you use an alternative to A&E when you aren’t seriously ill, it could mean that you end up waiting for less time to receive care. This will also leave emergency services able to devote time to helping those with life-threatening and emergency conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and serious injuries.”
Dr Naeem added that medical help should be sought if:
- the pain is particularly severe
- you cannot move the injured joint or muscle
- you cannot put any weight on the injured limb, or it gives way when you try to use it
- the injured area looks crooked or has unusual lumps or bumps (other than swelling)
- you have numbness, discolouration or coldness in any part of the injured area
- the symptoms have not started to improve within a few days of self treatment
For a wealth of helpful information and advice about treating sprains and strains, as well as many other injuries and conditions, visit www.nhs.uk
There is lots of guidance and information about staying well during winter on the NHS Stay Well website; visit www.nhsstaywell.org