Some who have experienced both a sprain and a broken bone believe the sprain to be the more painful and longer lasting condition. Twisting an ankle, hyperflexing a knee or overextending elbows and wrists can often lead to a debilitating sprain. Fortunately, there are a number of home remedies that can address the injury and the accompanying pain and swelling. Only a physician can properly diagnose a broken bone, however, so you should never substitute home remedies for a professional examination if a break is suspected.
Many who suffer from a sprain benefit immediately from the application of ice. Ice cubes placed in plastic storage bags can provide relief, along with packs formed with wet towels and ice. If ice is not readily available, a frozen package of vegetables or a blue chemical freezer bag used for coolers can also be used. For maximum effectiveness, the ice should be kept on the area for several minutes at a time, so some form of elastic bandage or tape may help to secure it. Ice helps to reduce the swelling and also reduces the chance of additional muscle strain.
For those who favor heat treatments over ice, one popular home remedy is a hot soak with Epsom salts. Epsom salts can be purchased at most drugstores or department stores. To prepare a hot soaking bath, check the directions on the side of the Epsom salt container. In general, a cup of Epsom salts is added to a gallon of water, and the affected joint is carefully lowered into the bath. The water should be hot, but not unbearably so. Allow the patient to soak the affected joint for several minutes, then carefully dry the area and prepare for bandaging.
A sprain should be kept immobilized for several days until the patient can safely apply weight to the joint. To achieve this at home, use elastic cloth Ace bandages to form a soft cast around the injury. Many first aid experts suggest wrapping several inches below the injury and avoiding overtightening. The patient should be able to move the affected joint very slightly, and the circulation around the bandage should appear normal. Special braces designed for ankle, wrist, knee or ankle sprains can also be purchased for home use.
Some sufferers find that applications of medicated sports creams can help with the pain and swelling. Some products are formulated to provide heat through a chemical reaction with the skin. Strong over-the-counter pain relievers can also help reduce muscle soreness.
A number of victims can begin to bear some weight after a few days, but others may require a few weeks of recovery. If the injury is indeed a sprain, never try to force a recovery. Instead, make adjustments in your daily schedule to accommodate the use of crutches or extended periods of rest.