WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE SUSTAINED AN INJURY
Strained or ‘pulled’ muscles often happen when we overexert 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. What can you do?
If the pain or swelling fails to improve within a week, booking an appointment may be beneficial. we will be able to assess and advise you on the correct treatment and can provide some manual therapy which may help it get better faster.
The P.O.L.I.C.E. Principle may be the new approach to your acute injury treatment. It can help guide you in the proper way to use ice and gentle motion to quickly get back to your normal activities.
For many years, physical therapists, as well as athletic trainers, doctors, and sports medicine specialists have recommended the R.I.C.E. principle to manage acute injuries. The acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
If you have suffered an injury, like a sprained ankle, your healthcare practitioner would likely recommend treating it initially using the R.I.C.E. acronym. First, rest the injured area. Then apply some ice to your injury using some form of compression (like an ACE bandage) and elevate the injured body part.
The thought process behind this is that in the initial days following injury, your body brings a lot of blood and fluid to the injured site to prepare it for healing, but your body may bring too much fluid to the injured area. This excessive fluid limits range of motion (ROM) around your joint and can actually delay proper healing.
What's Wrong with R.I.C.E.
While the R.I.C.E. technique makes sense, there are a couple problems with it. First, it hasn't really been proven to work like we think it works. One study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that there is a lack of solid evidence that the R.I.C.E. treatment for ankle sprains leads to better outcomes after the injury. Some experts believe that ice applied initially after an injury impedes the normal healing process.
Another problem with the R.I.C.E. technique is that many people take the "rest" phase a little too far. Often after acute injury, a little bit of rest is necessary. But you may feel compelled to rest your injured muscle or joint for far longer than is necessary. A long period of immobilization can lead to decreased muscle strength and flexibility. This may delay your return to normal functional mobility and activity.
What Does P.O.L.I.C.E. Stand For?
So is there another action to take after a sudden injury like a ligament sprain or muscle strain? Some physical therapists are recommending the P.O.L.I.C.E. principle. The P.O.L.I.C.E. acronym is as follows:
Protection: During the first few days after an injury, you should certainly rest the injured joint, ligament, or muscle. After a few days, gentle motion can be started while you still maintain a level of protection for the injured area. During this time you may require some sort of assistive device, like crutches, to walk.
Optimum Loading: While you are protecting your injured body part, gentle motion can, and should, be started. For example, after a shoulder injury or shoulder surgery, you should be able to progress from a few days of rest to passive ROM, active ROM, and finally, rotator cuff strengthening exercises. This progressive loading of your injury can help promote optimal healing of the injury and it can prevent delays in returning to normal due to joint and muscle tightness or muscle atrophy.
Ice: Applying ice may help to manage the swelling around your injured muscle or joint, and ice can help decrease some of the acute pain that you may be experiencing. Your PT can help you determine the best method of applying an ice to your injury. He or she can also teach you how to make your own ice pack.
Compression: While applying ice, compression can be added using an ACE bandage. You can also use a product like Ice Tape to cool and compress the injury at the same time.
Elevation: Elevation is simple for some body parts. An injured ankle or knee can be placed on a stack of pillows while you are lying down. An injury to your elbow or wrist requires that you elevate your entire arm on something. Your PT can help advise you on the best way to elevate your injury.