First aid for soft-tissue injuries

Following an injury such as a sprain, strain or muscle pull, the correct first aid treatment can help to prevent further complications and lead to faster healing and return to activity.
Start with P.R.I.C.E.
  • Protection: If you experience an injury, stop the activity to assess the damage and avoid further injury. If you feel you have damaged something, you should get looked at by a medical provider before returning.
  • Rest: If the injury is bad enough that you are unable to return, resting it is vital to protect the injury and promote effective healing.
  • Ice: Cold provides short-term pain relief and can help reduce swelling following an injury. A cold pack, ice pack or cold compression wrap that can form to the body is the most effective. Icing is also effective for post-exercise soreness when returning to an activity following injury.
  • Compression: Along with ice, light compression of the area can help reduce the swelling and help the body repair itself faster. And ACE wrap (gently applied) is an effective way to provide compression.
  • Elevation: Elevation is one of the most effective ways to reduce swelling and promote healing. When possible, elevate the area above your heart and rest it in that position for at least 15-20 minutes.
Most sprains and strains will begin to heal within a few days. If you have pain lasting more than two days or are unable to comfortably return to your activity, you should contact your health care provider.

Massage and stretching

Once healing begins, light massage to the area can help promote tissue healing and reduce formation of scar tissue. Light stretching can begin once your swelling has reduced. Gently work through the full-range of motion but do not force the stretch or stretch through pain.


Heat is appropriate once swelling has decreased, usually within 48 hours. Heat will promote new blood flow to the area and can speed recovery. If you experience significant swelling or pain after heat, return to icing. 

Return to activity

For most strains and sprains, you can gradually return to your activity as long as you don’t experience increases in pain. A physical therapist is helpful in prescribing strengthening exercises and helping you safely return to activity and avoid re-injury.  

For more information on sports therapy, please call 503-29-SPORT or visit