What Should You Do In The Early Stages of Injury: Ice Or Heat?

[highlight]By Brad Robinson[/highlight] – You do not have to be a trained medical guru to prevent your injury from worsening. PRICE is a self-help regime for the immediate management of muscle, ligament or joint injury. It should be initiated as soon as possible and should be used for 48 – 72 hours.

Early intervention by you will cut the long-term effects of the injury, restrict inflammation (bleeding, swelling and pain) and shorten your recovery time. The PRICE regime is a simple 5 step protocol.

[dropcap]P[/dropcap] is for PROTECTION: Protect yourself and the injury from further damage. Stop the activity you are doing whether you are on the sports field or just mowing the lawn. If applicable, use a stick or crutches to offload a knee or ankle injury.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap] is for REST: Allow an injury time to heal. Don’t be brave by returning to your activity or sport prematurely. If you allow your injury time to heal you will cut your recovery time and help prevent chronic problems.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] is for ICE: Apply an ice pack to the injured area. Ice will limit the damage caused by restricting bleeding in the tissues as well as reduce swelling and pain. You can use ice cubes in a damp cloth or plastic bag. Alternatively, get creative and use a packet of frozen peas!  Keep the ice pack on for 10 minutes, remove it for 10 minutes then reapply for a further 10 minutes. Repeat this step every 2 – 3 hours.

There must always be a barrier between you and the ice-cube. Ice applied directly to skin can cause a burn!

[dropcap]C[/dropcap] is for COMPRESSION: This step is a very important part of the PRICE regime. Applying compression will control the amount of swelling and this will shorten the recovery time. Any ‘stretchy’ bandage will suffice. Apply it uniformly and not too thick; it is ideal to ice through the bandage. However, if the cold does not penetrate, remove the compression during ice application and then reapply.

Remember to observe your fingers and toes. If they look ‘blue’ or you experience any ‘tingling’ then the compression needs to be loosened!

Remove the compression when you go to bed.

[dropcap]E[/dropcap] is for ELEVATION: It is preferable to elevate the injured limb above the level of the heart. This will help reduce swelling. The limb must be adequately supported such as using a stool to support your leg. Gently moving the injured extremity within pain is advisable e.g. opening and closing the hand or moving your foot back and forth.

The PRICE regime is what you should do. The following is what you should NOT do:

  • Avoid applying any HEAT to the injured area for 72 hours. This includes wallowing in a hot bath! Heat increases the blood supply and will exacerbate your injury. However, the use of heat acutely is ONLY preferable in the presence of back or neck muscle spasm!
  • Do not firmly rub or massage the area.
  • Avoid ALCOHOL as this increases the blood supply to your extremities and eventually makes you brave. It will make your injury worse.

If you have any concerns about the PRICE regime or your injury, then get expert medical advice. A skilled physiotherapist can offer a diagnosis and give the correct rehabilitative management for your injury. This will accelerate the healing process and prevent chronic problems or re-occurrence.

 Article Sponsored by Health International

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[highlight]Brad Robinson is a Musculoskeletal & Sports Medicine Physiotherapist at the Kingsmead Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation centre in Borrowdale, Harare. You can contact him on 0775 463 191/ 0776 825 250.[/highlight]

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