Injuries, like a sprained muscle, strained tendon, torn or damaged ligaments need immediate first aid treatment to help increase speed of recovery and reduce the risk of potential complications. Injuries are frequently accompanied by pain, bruising, swelling, bleeding and inflammation. These are all natural responses of the body as a result of injury and are part of the healing process. By applying the five elements of the PRICE protocol you can help to reduce pain or swelling and help to speed up recovery by aiding the healing process. NB. You may have heard that heat should be applied to an injury but this is not the case in acute injuries (up to 3 days after injury). Heat can increase the level of bleeding and therefore cause an increase in swelling and pain. Heat is best applied in the sub-acute phase 3-21 days later.
PROTECT the injury, i.e. Stop the activity causing the problem. Do not try to 'run off' a muscle strain REST - this is where many injuries are incorrectly managed. Rest does not mean immobilise. As soon as you are able to, keep the limb moving within a pain free range. ICE the injured area using an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel to reduce swelling and bruising. Don’t apply ice directly to your skin as it can damage your skin. Frozen peas work well! COMPRESS the area by bandaging it to support the injury and help reduce swelling. The bandage should fit snugly but not be too tight, and you should remove it before going to bed (and whilst elevated). ELEVATE the injured area above the level of your heart to control swelling. Keep the area supported and try to keep it elevated as much as possible until the swelling goes down. For the first 72 hours after an injury there are certain things you shouldn’t do to ensure you don’t make the injury worse. Do not massage or apply heat as this can increase inflammation and stiffness. It is also important not to immobilise the affected limb completely as this will cause muscle atrophy and stiffness. You can reduce your risk of muscle strain by doing a thorough warm-up before exercise. It’s also important that you make sure your muscles are strong enough and you’re fit enough for the activity you’re doing. If your injury is severe or you find that it keeps re-occurring, seek medical advice. Physio/Sports therapy may also help you to strengthen the damaged muscle and return to your usual activities.