Sprains occur when the ligaments surrounding a joint are pulled beyond their normal range. Sprains are often accompanied by bruising and swelling.
What to do immediately: Alternately apply and remove ice every 20 minutes throughout the first day. Wrapping the joint with an elastic compression bandage and elevating the limb may also help. Stay off the injury for at least 24 hours. After that, apply heat to promote blood flow to the area.
What not to do: Work through the pain, says Art Hsieh, chief operating officer for the San Francisco Paramedic Association, or you risk doing more serious damage, like tearing the ligament.
When to seek medical attention: If the injury doesn’t improve in a few days, you may have a fracture or a muscle or ligament tear; call a doctor.