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Ouch! What to do when you sustain an injury.

Sprains and strains to muscles and joints happen to all of us and for most they are a painful, but temporary, reminder to be a little more careful! Prompt action can help your body to heal faster and may prevent further injury or prolonged pain.

Strained or ‘pulled’ muscles often happen when we over exert untrained muscles, train without properly warming up, or try to go beyond a joint’s natural flexibility.

Sometimes we feel the pain straight away, however some injuries might not cause pain until later on. What can you do?

Remember RICE (relative rest, ice, compression and elevation), using these straight away can ease the pain and start the healing process.

Relative rest: The first thing to do if you feel pain is to reduce the offending activity – pain is usually your body’s way of telling you that there is something wrong that needs your attention. It can be normal to feel a little sore after exercise for a day or two, but if it is more than this, pushing through the pain is rarely beneficial.

However, movement stimulates the healing process so stay as mobile as you comfortably can. Try to keep the joint moving, without forcing it to the point of pain. This will help to encourage blood flow and keep your joint flexible whilst it heals. This is particularly relevant for back pain as gentle exercise, such as walking, can help. You should slowly build your activity levels up as soon as you are able.

Ice: Cooling the area using an ice pack can help reduce swelling and pain. Wrap a thin damp tea towel around the area so as to avoid direct skin contact and then apply the pack to the injured area for 10-15 minutes. You should repeat this several times per day for the first 72 hours. This will help to control inflammation, making it easier for your body to get blood and nutrients to the area and resolve the injured tissues.

Compression: Gently applying a compression dressing or compression taping may help to temporarily support the injured joint and reduce swelling, though remove this immediately if there are signs that this is reducing the circulation to the area (numbness, pins and needles, the skin turning white or blue etc.).

Elevation: If the injury is in the lower limb (knee or ankle), elevating the area a little can make it easier for you body to drain fluids that might accumulate around the area, causing swelling. For example, if you’ve hurt your knee, sitting down with the knee raised on a low foot stool may ease your pain.

Seek medical attention. If you have pain that cant be controlled with over the counter painkiller, cant put weight on the injured limb, experience paralysis or loss of sensation or the swelling is very bad seek help from your local A&E department, urgent care centre or telephone 111 for advice.

If the pain or swelling fails to improve within a week, a visit to Jane Jeater Osteopathy may be beneficial. We will be able to assess the injury, advise you on the correct treatment and can provide some manual therapy, taping, dry needling (with Jo only) and rehabilitation exercises, which may help it get better faster.

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