The best way to recover from bumps, bruises and sprains
Soft tissue injuries, whether they are bumps and bruises or ligament/muscle tears can be a pain to deal with if not managed correctly. These injuries are incredibly common in sport and day to day life
This is a guide to the initial management of any bumps, bruises or sprain. It’s important to do this acute management as this reduces pain and swelling prior to seeing your physiotherapist for assessment. This will help your physiotherapist assist you to get back to full activities as quickly as possible.
Many people have heard of the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) which describes the typical way in which soft tissue injuries are managed.
This has been the traditional way in which soft tissue injuries have been managed for many years and recent research has shown that it may be time for an update. It has been found that completely resting an area after a soft tissue injury can actually make things worse, leading to a loss of strength and mobility as well as an overall longer time to recover. Instead the more up-to-date way to manage soft tissue injuries is to call the P-O-L-I-C-E.
This research suggests that it is best to protect the area from further injury for a limited period of time while still being as active as possible. This minimises the structural changes and strength loss in injured tissue and in the surrounding areas.
We then want to optimally load the tissue. Load is required to stimulate tissue healing in bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments and so it is important to ensure that these tissues are being loaded enough to promote healing but not so much so as to do further damage.
The amount of load that the body will able to tolerate will decrease after an injury. This means that you should exercise at a lower level of intensity than you would have before you were injured. This will increase as you continue down the path to recovery. As such, the load must be progressively adjusted to continue to produce change in the tissue while not loading it up enough to cause further damage. Talk to your physio for the best advice on returning to your normal activity, whether that is sport, gardening or walking.
In the first 24-48 hours after a soft tissue injury (or while there is still swelling present) ice can help to reduce pain and swelling. It is important to ensure that you do not place the ice directly on the skin or leave it on for longer than 20 minutes at a time as it may damage the tissue.
Compression after a soft tissue injury can help to prevent further swelling. One way in which this can be achieved is through the use of a compression bandage wound above, below and over the affected area. Be careful to ensure that the bandage is not too tight as to cut off circulation or cause pain.
Elevating the injured area above the level of the heart can also help to prevent swelling as it allows the excess fluid to drain back towards the heart.
If pain and swelling persist it is important to get an assessment with your physiotherapist to ensure that there is not a more complex injury.