So, you got a muscle sprain. I can understand your pain! Common though it is, sprains can really be debilitating. But, don’t worry. I have here a list of home remedies for sprains that will see you through the worst!
What is a Sprain?
Sprains are quite common, especially among those who indulge in regular physical activities like athletes, sport persons etc. A sprain can be defined as an injury caused to the joint when the ligament is stretched beyond its capacity. A sprain is generally experienced when a person falls, twists or is hurt in a way that his body is forced out of its normal position leading to the overstretching of joints. Sprains are often caused while running or walking on an uneven ground, excessive exercising, lifting heavy weights and during accidents.
Sprains can affect any joints in our body. Ankle sprain is the most common among all the sprains. It has been estimated that nearly 25000 people sprain an ankle every day. Other sprains include ankle, wrist and thumb sprains. Runners often experience high ankle sprains while thumb and wrist sprains are more common in sports like skiing where skiers often fall on an outstretched palm. Sprains are often accompanied by pain, swelling, difficulty in moving the limbs, bruising etc. In certain cases, the ligament is ruptured which might cause a popping sound during movement. Hence, treatment of a sprain is necessary to facilitate quick healing and prevent long term chronic pain.
Types of Sprains:
Depending upon the severity of the injury, sprains can be classified into 3 categories as follows.
1. First degree sprain involves a tear of only a few fibers of the ligament and is minor in nature
2. Second degree sprain involves a tear of part of a ligament ranging from one-third to almost all its fibers
3. Third degree sprain involves a tear of the entire ligament
Home Remedies for Sprains:
As we all know, ligaments are connective tissues that performs the function of holding the bones together in the skeleton. Thus, sprains occur only at the joints where the two bones are connected. The severity of a sprain depends upon the degree to which the ligaments have been stretched, which may vary from minor stretching to a major tearing. A sprain can take 6 weeks to 4 months to heal. On the basis of severity of injury caused, sprains can be severe, partial and mild. While severe and partial sprains require medical care, mild sprains can be cured at home with a few home remedies given below.
Resting plays an important role in facilitating quick recovery from sprains. Take as much rest as you can to prevent the injury from getting aggravated. Avoid putting any weight on the sprained area which would include not lifting the sprained wrist or elbow. Do not indulge in any activity for the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury. In particular, any activity that can cause swelling or pain should be avoided. However, this does not mean that you should stay away from all physical activities. You can definitely indulge in some light exercise to rejuvenate other muscles but avoid using the sprained muscle. For instance, if you have a sprained ankle, you can try peddling an exercise bicycle with one leg and rest the injured ankle on the footrest peg.
Ice helps to numb the pain. So, immediately put an ice pack on the sprained area for about 10 minutes at a time. Take it off for 20 to 30 minutes and then apply it again. This procedure should be continued for the first 3 days. The cold constricts the blood vessels and slows the inflammatory process, thus reducing pain, swelling and possibly bleeding. However, ice should not be directly applied to the injured area as this might cause a cold burn. Discontinue this treatment if the area turns white. It should not be applied for too long as this might aggravate the injury. Those having vascular disease, diabetes and decreased sensation should consult their doctor before applying ice in such a case.
Compression is about compressing or bandaging the injured area to prevent any swelling and movement that can cause further damage. It involves compressing the pain with the help of elastic tapes, bandages, air cast, special boots and splints. You can wrap your injured wrist, ankle, elbow, knee or any other joint with an elastic or crepe bandage or purchase a compression sleeve available at a drugstore. Wrap the bandage tightly, beginning with the farthest end from your heart. This will tighten the sprained area and avoid further injury. However, it should not be wrapped too tightly as it may restrict blood flow. Loosen the bandage if the area becomes numb or swelling is experienced below the compressed area. Ensure that the bandage is removed before going to sleep.
Elevating the injured area will also help in decreasing the swelling. The injured area should be placed on a pillow or elevated above the level of your heart, especially at night. The gravity will help reduce swelling, drain excess fluid and prevent it from collecting in the injured area. In case of an injured leg, avoid spending long periods of time without raising your leg.
These four remedies constitute the immediate first aid that can be given in case of sprains. Together they are known as R.I.C.E. therapy (rest, ice, compression, elevation). This therapy plays a crucial role in the first 24 to 72 hours of the injury and hence, should be strictly followed. You can gradually begin using the injured area after the first 2 days. You will experience an improvement in the joint’s ability to support your weight or move without pain. Apart from this, there are several other home remedies that can be helpful for muscle sprain treatment.
Pineapple can help you in getting rid of the agonizing pain of a sprain. This is because it contains ‘bromelain’, an enzyme that accelerates the healing process. Make plenty of pineapple a part of your diet! However, it should be kept in mind that ‘bromelain’ causes side effects like dermatitis. The use of pineapple diet should be stopped immediately if you experience skin itchiness due to it.
Another way to quicken the healing process is to wrap chopped onions in a muslin cloth and place it on the sprained area.
7. Thyme Oil:
You can dilute 5 drops of thyme oil in water or some other oil and use it as a compress to get rid of swelling.
8. Horse Chestnut:
Horse chestnut is excellent treatment for sprains. Its anti-inflammatory properties can be attributed to the presence of a compound called aescin which can heal all kinds of injuries including sprains. Horse chestnut gel can be applied to the affected area at regular intervals of 2 hours till the pain subsides.
Turmeric is an Indian spice which is considered a natural pain reliever due to its anti-inflammatory properties. A topical paste made from turmeric has been used since ancient times for healing sprains. You can prepare this paste by mixing 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder with one tablespoon of lime juice. Add a small quantity of boiling water to this mixture to make a thick paste of uniform consistency. Apply this paste on the injured area and hold it in place with a cheesecloth or plastic food wrap.
Arnica is an alpine herb that has been widely used in Homeopathy to relieve sprains, strains and injuries of the muscles and joints. This herb is available in the form of ointment, oil and cream. You can apply arnica oil or ointment and use it as a compress on the sprained area. Health stores also sell Arnica teas. It is also available in dropper form and can be added to your regular drinks like juice, tea or coffee.
11. Eucalyptus Oil:
Eucalyptus oil is effective in reducing pain from injuries and sprains. You can blend some eucalyptus in a 2 % solution, using base massage oil such as almond. Eucalyptus, when combined with rosemary oil, can cure sprains and sore muscles by increasing the flow of blood to muscle tissue.
You can prepare a poultice from parsley or add it to a cold compress. This home remedy for sprain will lessen the pain as well as relieve the inflammation or discoloration caused at the sprained area.
13. Castor Oil:
We all are aware of the fact that castor oil is great for your hair and is also used as a remedy for constipation. But it is also effective in relieving the pain of sprains. Castor oil can be applied directly in the form of castor oil pack. For this purpose, place a heating pad on a flat surface and turn the setting to high. Place the garbage pack on this pad and place the flannel pieces soaked in castor oil on top of the bag and pad. Put this oil soaked flannel directly on the sprained area. You can wrap your body in a towel to hold the pack in place and prevent the oil from reaching other surrounding surfaces. Hold this pack for at least an hour, keeping the temperature as high as you can tolerate. After removing the pack, you can either massage the remaining oil in your skin or clean it off with soda water prepared from 1 quart of warm water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. You can store this flannel in a zippered freezer bag or plastic container and refrigerate it for reuse. Before reusing, warm it, adding another 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil.
Though it seems rather unusual, lime can actually be used in sprains. You can prepare a paste by blending lime leaves with butter and apply it on the affected area. Alternatively, you can combine a teaspoon of raw lime powder with 1 teaspoon honey and apply it on the affected area.
15. Almond Oil:
You can mix 1 teaspoon of almond oil and 1 teaspoon of garlic oil. Apply this on the affected area for relief from pain.
Place the outer leaves of cabbage in hot water to warm them. After removing, bandage them around the sprained area.
Applying crushed petals or flowers of herbs directly on the affected area can speed up the healing process. You can try herbs like lavender, chamomile, St John’s wort or calendula. Apply crushed herbs directly on the affected area and leave for about 3 hours to reduce the swelling and facilitate quick healing.
In case of minor sprains, rehab exercise can be started after a few days. It is advisable to begin with walking. Be cautious enough to prevent further injury. Ensure wearing hiking boots or high top lace-up shoes for support. Do not force yourself if you feel pain or discomfort. Given below are a few exercises that can be possibly tried in case of sprains.
- Stretching Exercises: Stretching exercises should be done daily, particularly before and after physical activities to prevent re-injury. But exercise only to such an extent that you do not feel any pain.
- Range-of-Motion Exercises: You can start these exercises soon after injury to keep your joints and muscles flexible. Try to move your joint as far as possible in every direction that it moves.
- Strengthening Exercises: In case of ankle sprains, you can try strengthening exercises as they can help in supporting your ankles. These exercises can be started once you are able to stand without increased pain or discomfort. However, it is advisable to consult with your doctor or physical therapist regarding the timing of strengthening exercises.
- Balance and Control Exercises: These exercises improve the ability of your foot or ankle to respond to activities, thus preventing re-injury. You should exercise only if you do not feel increased pain. These exercises should not be resorted to if you cannot do them easily without injury. You are likely to injure yourself again if you try them while suffering from a sprain.
These are a few home remedies that will help you recover from a sprain. The recovery time will depend upon the severity of the sprain. Besides these remedies, it is advised that you follow the instructions of your doctor or physiotherapist.
Don’t let a sprain keep you from living it up! With these simple home remedies for sprain, you can live your life, pain free!