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    Your child’s sprains and strains

    Your child’s sprains and strains

    Bumps and bruises, cuts and grazes – they’re all a natural part of the rough and tumble of childhood. Most of the time, your child will be just fine with a plaster and lots of cuddles. A sprained wrist or a strained muscle, on the other hand, may need extra care.

    In this guide

    What are strains and sprains?

    Strains or sprains often happen when your child pushes a muscle too far. They can also happen as the result of a trip or fall.

    Active children can strain or sprain a part of their body from activities like running around the garden, jumping or climbing over furniture or playing sport.

    Your child may have a strain or sprain if:

    • They complain of sharp, immediate pain in a body part they’ve just used (e.g. ankle or wrist)
    • They are unable to put weight on a body part that was injured
    • They complain of pain in a body part after strenuous activity (e.g. playing sport)
    • The area of concern looks swollen

    If you are concerned about your child’s symptoms, seek advice from your doctor.

    What’s the difference between strains and sprains?

    Although the pain may feel the same, strains and sprains are different conditions because they affect different structures in the body.

    Strains are caused by damage to muscles or tendons (bands of tissue that join muscle to bone).

    Sprains, on the other hand, are caused by damage to ligaments (strong bands of tissue that hold bones together). Ankles sprains are one of the most common injuries in children.

    How should you relieve a sprain or strain?

    Use the RICE principle immediately after your child suffers a strain or sprain:

    • Rest - Avoid moving or putting weight on the part of the body that has been strained or sprained to prevent further for up to two days.
    • Ice - Use some ice to cool the affected area. The cold will help bring down swelling in the early stages. Apply for about 10 minutes every few hours for up to 48 hours.
    • Compression - Give the injury extra support by compressing the affected area with a bandage. When the injury is wrapped firmly, the pressure can prevent or decrease swelling.
    • Elevation - Try to keep the injured area elevated by placing it on a pillow. This helps to reduce swelling.

    Your child may need medicine to help with the pain of their sprain or strain. Nurofen for Children can provide temporary relief of pain and reduce inflammation.

    When should you contact a doctor?

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a sprain and a broken bone, so take your child to see a doctor if you’re concerned. It’s also important to seek medical advice if your child’s pain is not manageable at home.

    Important information

    This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

    This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.  


    1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. OrthoInfo. Sprains and strains: what’s the difference? [Internet] Accessed 3 September 2014. 
    2. About health. Sprains and strains. [Internet] Accessed 3 September 2014 

    In this guide