When you’re in a state of shock from a sudden injury, it can be difficult to figure out what do next and how to properly handle the situation. The pain can be overwhelming, and your brain is most likely in a panicked state, trying to figure out how to react.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that getting an early, accurate assessment of the problem and receiving appropriate treatment is better than treating the injury later. In other words, simply trying to act tough and handle the injury on your own is highly ill-advised.
After all, something that may seem like your basic pulled muscle, strained ligament or soft tissue tear can come along with a fracture, bone-bruising or dislocation underneath the surface.
While seeking out medical attention is always a good idea, if you’re sure your injury is simply something minor and can be healed on its own, then there’s a proven method of treatment that has become popular due to its consistent success.
That method is called “RICE,” an acronym standing for “Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.”
Rest can be considered a treatment for nearly any situation, whether you sprain your ankle or merely have a stress headache.
However, rest from painful exercise, overexertion, or excessive movement is essential during the earliest stages of an injury. It’s otherwise called “active rest,” and should be done, instead of taking up the mantra of ‘no pain, no gain.’ stance at your local gym.
It’s important not to do anything that can aggravate the painful symptoms for the first two or three days after incurring the injury. But get your body (and the injured muscle) slowly moving again, flexing and strengthening the muscle before other problems develop or the muscle weakens.
If you’re ever unsure how to proceed, contacting your doctor is crucial to handling the situation correctly without causing further harm to yourself.
Ice (then Heat)
Use ice as a tool to prevent inflammation and decrease numbing pain. It should be utilised during the first two or three days post-injury to help keep down swelling and aid in recovery.
Applying ice for 20-30 minutes, every two to three hours is a suitable goal to maintain for the first few days. This should work in speeding up the healing process while drawing out the “heat” (inflammation) of the injury. This also reduces pain especially from traumatic soft tissue injuries, in regards to things like ligament sprains, muscle tears or bruising.
After using ice, you can then put heat into your routine, if necessary. It’s not advisable to have it during the first 48 hours, as it can induce greater bleeding.
However, once the injury has had a few days to go through its swelling and “heat” stage, heat packs can then be used as you as you move the affected area. Heat stimulates blood flow and keeps muscles warmed up for greater ease and flexibility.
Heat is also great for keeping your muscles relaxed while easing the pain.
Compress (Bandage or Joint Support)
Aside from hot and cold techniques, it’s also useful to incorporate a compressive bandage or elastic support to your injury site.
These can aid in controlling the swelling or bleeding throughout the first few days, giving your body more stability. In many cases, the bandage or supportive band can help support the injury as new scar tissue is formed and you begin your journey through greater movement again.
Injuries benefit from having greater support, using tools like braces or cloth, wrap-around bands that keep them from having to hold as much weight or enforce too much movement before your injury is ready to handle it.
Allowing the injured area to be elevated during the first few days is also very important in keeping inflammation at bay.
Gravity will encourage any swelling to settle at the lowest point, so resting the injury at an elevated stance above your heart for a suitable time is crucial to a speedy recovery.
Reasons to Take Action
There are certainly benefits to seek treatment early, such as: relieving your pain faster through medical treatment or physical therapy, improving scar tissue, getting back to your sports, work, or hobbies faster after healing, strengthening and releasing tension from the injury site with prescribed exercises and improving your body’s performance overall.
Research showed that injuries left untreated take longer to heal, causing further possibility of greater injury or lingering pain over time. They’re also more than likely to create other issues, such as abnormal scar tissue formation, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness.
In general, the sooner you care for your injuries, the sooner you’ll be on the road to recovery, helping your body to get back in shape.
Allowing your body to heal itself in certain situations is fine, as long as you understand that the injury itself is only minor and can, in fact, be treated and/or healed on its own, or through simple home remedies. No amount of showmanship is worth the pain and potential bodily damage.
Take precautions when suffering a minor injury, following the RICE method to a greater recovery. Otherwise, seek professional treatment early on for more severe injuries.