Alec Tinker Osteopath in Yorkshire – Back pain, Rehabilitation, Sports Injuries

Managing Acute Injuries

For the purpose of this article when I refer to acute injuries I am talking about ones that occur as a result of an impact or trauma to a specific area normally in a short space of time. There are 2 acronyms that can be used for the vast majority of acute injuries to help people manage their pain and optimism the healing process.  The first is HARM which stands for the things that you should try and avoid doing in the first 72 hours. Heat Alcohol Re-injury Massage.

Heat – Applying heat to the injury will dilate the blood vessels which may increase bleeding and swelling to the area.

Alcohol – Drinking alcohol may also increase blood flow to the area and delay the start of the healing process.

Re-injury – Continuing to exercise or doing heavy exercise within the first 72 hours may cause further damage to the area.

Massage –Like applying heat and drinking alcohol, massage will increase the blood flow to the area which could increase bleeding and swelling.

It is also recommended that you avoid using NSAIDs because these are designed to reduce inflammation which is the exact thing you need straight after an injury to help start the healing process.

So now you know what to try and avoid the second acronym explains what you should try and do. Many of you may have heard of RICE which stands for Rest Ice Compression and Elevation this was then updated to PRICE Protect Rest Ice Compression Elevation. However following research in 2012 the acronym has been updated again to POLICE which stands for Protect Optimal Loading Ice Compression Elevation.

Protect – While the injury is healing putting excessive force or movement through the area will delay the repair process.

Optimal Loading – This has replaced rest in acronym.  While rest may be helpful in the very short term, continued rest can actually make an injury worse. This is because the soft tissue around the area (muscle, ligaments & tendons) may become deconditioned.

What is optimum will vary depending on the person and the injury. General advice is to load the injured area frequently but with small amounts. Getting the balance right so that you’re not overloading the tissues can be hard. Always listen to your body, if it is hurting a lot don’t do it.

Ice – Within the medical world there is an ongoing debate about the use of ice following injury for its role in swelling which is currently inconclusive. But ice does reduce pain and is therefore recommended. 10 mins a couple of times a day for the first 5-7 days. Do not apply ice directly to the injury, use a damp towel.

Compression – Strapping the area in a bandage or buying a compression sleeve should help keep the swelling down. Make sure that there is not too much compression otherwise this will hinder blood flow which will interfere with the healing process.

Elevation – For injuries to your extremities resting them in a raised position, this should help the circulation of fluid to help manage the swelling.

imageFor the most majority of musculoskeletal injuries the healing process can take between 6-8 weeks. Following the POLICE protocol will improve your chances of a speedy recovery. So stay positive, see a health professional if you are worried or would like advice on rehabilitation exercises and last of all eat well and sleep well.

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