Accidents always happen when you explore the great outdoors. Sometimes, it’s a common thing to hear a snap or crack when you push yourself. When people go over their ankle or twist their knee medical aid is required. If there isn’t a fracture and all you have to deal with is a sprain, here is what you need to do.
Taking care of yourself when traveling through the wilderness is mandatory if you want to make it back home in one piece. You need to pace yourself and pay attention to every step you make. It takes just a split second to make a wrong move and injure oneself. When that happens and you hear that dreadful snap sound you need to establish what you have to deal with.
If the bone or joint is bent at a funny angle you might require immediate evacuation. The same goes if the bone is puncturing through the skin or the limb is extremely swollen or deformed. In these cases the patient will not be able to use it and requires proper transportation to the hospital.
However, if the limb looks normal, aside from some noticeable swelling, and the main issue is pain and weight bearing. You may be dealing with a painful sprain or a less significant fracture. In this case, if you are safe and well equipped you could travel to the nearest populated area.
One important thing to check is if the patient has blood flow and sensation to the affected limb. Do this by comparing the sensation and skin temperature between the injured limb and the non-injured one. In most cases, hikers with a sprain limb were able to partially weight-bear through their knee or ankle. Even more, some manage to hobble or walk after 24 hours.
How to treat painful sprain before evacuation
Sometimes the limb is grossly deformed and you need to take action before help arrives. Minimise movement until you are rescued by improvising a splint. Make sure that the limb is well-padded and toes or fingers remain pink with normal sensation in them.
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In certain cases, the limb may be at a funny angle and people will attempt to restore it or put it in place. Make only a single attempt to straighten the limb, but only if the pain is bearable and there is no mechanical resistance. If that’s the case, splint it in the position it’s in.
When waiting for help to arrive make sure to stay in a safe location with an adequate shelter. Ration your supplies depending on how much time you have to wait. Learn about the RICE principle and how to apply it.
Applying RICE when dealing with a painful sprain
RICE stands from rest, ice, compression and elevation and it’s often used in conjunction with pain control. Here is how to correctly use RICE when dealing with a painful sprain.
The patient should sit down and keep weight off the injured limb for the next 24 hours. Limit your movements as much as possible and sit still.
Depending on the time of the year, you can use snow or ice on the swollen area. Use your socks to pack some ice or snow and apply it on the sprain limb. During the warm season, use cold water from a stream. Soak a towel or t-shirt in a nearby stream and apply it on the swollen area. Do so every hour for 10 minutes to limit swelling and offer relief.
Suggested reading: Ten Ways To Use Your Socks During An Emergency
Your first aid kit should include a crepe bandage. It will come in handy when you need to set a sprain ankle. If you don’t have one, you could slide over a pair of socks a couple of size too small. When dealing with an injured knee, cut off the sock toes and pull it up around the knee. Make sure the improvised sock support isn’t too tight. The toes should remain pink and the patient shouldn’t feel pins and needles.
Sometimes the limb may require elevation and you need to improvise using the materials you have. A paracord is ideal to restrain the limb in a certain position. Try and keep the affected limb elevated above the heart if possible. This will help fluids and tissue swelling drain under the effect of gravity.
Additionally you should give the patient and anti-inflammatory, such as Ibuprofen. Combine it with Tylenol or Acetaminophen, but make sure your Ibuprofen doesn’t already contain one of the two. Take them regularly, even if the pain reduces.
A final word
When dealing with a painful sprain, the first 24 hours are perhaps the most critical ones. If cared properly for, the patient should be able to move after those 24 hours. If he or she can’t move on their own, it’s time to consider evacuation again.