Early Injury Management

Muscle and tendon strains and ligament sprains are injuries that occur traumatically. To optimise recovery in the early hours following these injuries there are several things that you can do.

A commonly used acronym that can help you remember what to do after a muscle or tendon strain or a ligament sprain is RICE. This stands for:

  • REST
  • ICE
  • COMPRESSION
  • ELEVATION

The purpose of RICE is to minimise inflammation and swelling.

Relative REST may include the use of crutches or a sling, or may simply mean, discontinue continue to your sport if you’re injured during the game.

During the first 72 hours after an injury you should ICE the affected area for 20 minutes every 2 hours.

COMPRESSION bandages can be purchased from your local chemist and should be applied to the injured area as soon as you have access to one. These are a really effective way of reducing swelling.

The injured area should then be ELEVATED so that it is higher than your heart. Complete this when possible until swelling subsides.

Eg. if you have an ankle injury lay down and place your foot on two pillows.

Also, there are several things you will benefit from avoiding during the first 72 hours post injury. There is another helpful acronym that can assist you to remember what to avoid, NO HARM. This means NO…

  • HEAT
  • ALCOHOL
  • RETURNING TO EXERCISE
  • MASSAGE

Heat causes your blood vessels to dilate (expand), allowing more blood to pass through, therefore increasing swelling and bruising in an area of acute injury.
Alcohol is also a vasodilator (expands blood vessels) so will also contribute to an increase in bleeding and swelling in an area.
Exercising and/or massaging the affected area in the first 72 hours increases blood flow which is detrimental to allowing the injury to settle.

So there you have it. Be sensible, and if you follow some very simple steps as above you will help your injury to settle down as quickly as possible.

For more specific advice about your injury consult your physiotherapist.