When you're out in the field, hospitals or a medic may be out of reach when you or your partner sprains a body part. Ankles, wrists, and hamstrings are all extremely susceptible to sprains as parts we use in every movement. To treat a sprain in the field, you'll need to get familiar with how to spot one and the RICE Principle.
There are several precautions you can check off on before heading out to ward a sprain. Before departing, ensure you've prepped a solid emergency bag. This should include items like a first aid kit, gauze, ice compression packs, and even duct tape. Essentially, prep for things that could happen, even if the likelihood seems slim. Check your shoes—are they the best option for the terrain you'll be on? Naturally, hills would call for different shoes than ones you might choose for desert areas. The make and the fit of your shoes could mean the difference between a supported and sprained ankle. Make sure they fit your foot perfectly, leaving no loose room, as it could throw off your balance. As you walk about, be mindful of where you're stepping. While it may seem irrelevant, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether or not an area is stable. Loose rock could easily roll your ankle and leave you up creek without a paddle.
Even with all the right precautions in place, accidents can and often do happen. Treating sprains in the field isn't ideal but will be necessary should you find yourself alone with a swollen wrist or your partner can't stand on their foot. If you feel a sudden sharp pain in your ankle, wrist, or hamstring, find a spot to sit down to check the area for swelling or discoloration. From there, assess pain and mobility—can you move it from left to right? Does it hurt to do this? If mobility is limited and you're feeling an uncomfortable dull throb, the area is likely sprained. This is where the RICE method will come in clutch.
R – Rest
Stop where you are and make the area completely immobile. Continuing on without treating the affected area will only make it more severe.
I – Ice
Ice the area if you can with an ice compression pack. This is one of the easiest, anti-inflammatory options that delivers immediate relief. Ice for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours for 24 hours. Then, you will be able to use heat. You can use anything cold like snow or water from a river.
C – Compression
Compression will reduce the swelling in the area. Use an elastic bandage if you've got one or anything you can tightly wrap around the sprain. Be careful to not compress it too tightly.
E – Elevate
You'll want to elevate the sprain higher than where your heart is to help stabilize blood pressure.
The RICE Method will allow you to sufficiently treat a sprain so that you can safely return to your camp, base, or car. As always, we recommend you seek a medical professional's advice when you're able.