Treat a Sprain While Hiking or During Other Outdoor Activities

Imagine being on the adventure life travel excursion of a lifetime, or a trek on a Grandfather of all hiking trails and get a sprained ankle or a sprained knee. What if you fall and suddenly sprained your wrist? How best to treat a sprain while hiking or during other outdoor activities?

Under normal circumstances getting a sprain is not a big deal. All vigorous outdoor activities including sports and exercises carry a risk of sprain. With a little rest and some time sprains and twists will heal.

However in the outdoors, or in backcountry without the creature comforts of home, something as simple as a twisted knee or a twisted ankle could put you in a precarious position.

Sprains happen when there is a stretching or tearing to the fibrous tissues connecting two bones together in a joint, or commonly known as ligaments. This can occur to any joint but mostly in the ankle, knee and wrist.

So obviously first and foremost is to take preventative measures to avoid a sprain and make sure you always include a first aid supplies either in a first aid bag or your tactical bag backpack.

Prevent a sprain:

  • Stretch and warm up before undertaking any physical activity
  • Use or wear protective equipment appropriate for the sport
  • Wear proper-fitting shoes, designed for the specific activity
  • Do not overexert yourself or participate if you’re overly tired

If, after taking the proper precautions, you find yourself with a sprain, it’s important that before treating a sprain, it is best to determine the severity of the injury in order to provide appropriate remedy needed.

This can be a mild, moderate or severe sprain. In a mild sprain, the ligament was stretched but the joint remains stable. This usually lasts 1-3 weeks. A moderate sprain slightly tears the ligament making the joint unstable and takes 3-6 weeks to recover. When the ligaments tear off completely or separate from the bone it is considered to be severe sprain. This requires several months to regain stability.

Treat A Sprain While Hiking

In treating mild and moderate sprain, R.I.C.E method is advisable to use.


First, REST the sprained body part. A Sprain causes stress to the ligament; so it’s important to let the injured area relax. Avoid putting unnecessary force or weight to it but constantly exercise the part for the blood circulation. This minimizes the deconditioning of the area. Depending on where you are, this might mean setting up camp for a day or two.


Next, ICE the area to bring down swelling. Sprains causes tear of the ligament, which makes the injured area to swell. By using a cold pack, ice the area as soon as possible after the injury to limit the swelling. Swelling makes the sprain more painful. However ice may not be available on extended treks, so look for a cold river or lake. You can also pack snow wrapped in clothing and apply to the sprain.


After that, COMPRESS the area with a compression brace, elastic wrap or bandage. It is best to use compressive wraps or sleeves made from elastic or neoprene because this type of bandage helps in minimizing the inflammation.

Elastic bandages vary in sizes. A good rule of thumb is the wider the bandage, the better compression you get. When elastic bandages are not available, self-adherent compression bandages can be used as an alternative option. These provide compression similar to elastic bandages, but are more versatile because of its tape like characteristic. Pressure and time of application must be considered when applying bandages.

Remember, do not wrap the bandage too tightly as it will block the flow of blood to the area. Bandages should be applied only in the first 24 hours to 48 hours after the injury. Do not apply ice and compression simultaneously as it can cause frostbite.


Lastly, ELEVATE the injured limb above your heart whenever possible to help prevent or limit swelling. Elevating the part can be done while there is applied bandage to the area. Minor sprains should be elevated for about 20 minutes and a more severe sprain should be elevated for the night.

Meanwhile, severe sprains require immediate care. Anyone suffering from a severe sprain will need to be examined by a medical professional to avoid further complications. Sometimes due to the seriousness of sprain, a surgery or an immobilization may be needed followed by a physical therapy.

Preventing Sprains

Sprains cannot be stopped from happening, but they can be prevented. Flexibility, strength, good balance and maintaining healthy body condition can prevent sprains from happening.

So before you take your next camping or hiking adventure, make sure you carry the essential supplies needed to not only survive, but to treat a sprain while hiking or during other outdoor activities.

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