Minor injuries such as sprains and strains to joints and muscles happen to all of us. For most they are a painful, but temporary, reminder to be a little more careful. Do you know the best way to treat such minor injuries? We all live busy lives and can’t afford to allow pain and discomfort to stop us doing the things we have to do or love to do. Prompt action can help your body to heal faster and may prevent further injury or prolonged pain.
Strained or ‘pulled’ muscles often happen when we over exert untrained muscles, train without properly warming up or try to go beyond a joint’s natural flexibility. Sometimes with these sorts of injuries we feel the pain straight away, however some injuries might not cause pain until later on. What can you do?
Remember RICE (Relative rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). Following these simple steps can help to relieve the pain and kick start the healing process.
The first thing to do if you sustain one of these injuries and feel pain is to stop doing the activity that hurts! Sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many people don’t. Pain is usually your body’s way of telling you that there is something wrong. It can be normal to feel a little sore after exercises for a day or two, but if it is more than this, pushing through the pain is rarely beneficial.
However, movement stimulates the healing process so stay as mobile as you comfortably can. Try to keep the joint moving through a comfortable range of motion, without forcing it to the point of pain. This will help to encourage a blood flow and keep your joint flexible whilst it heals. This is particularly relevant for back pain as gentle exercise, such as walking, can help. You should slowly build your activity levels up as soon as your symptoms begin to resolve.
Cooling the injured area using an ice pack can help to reduce swelling and pain. Wrap a thin tea towel around the area so as to avoid direct skin contact. Apply the pack to the area for 10-15 minutes. You should repeat this several times per day for the first 72 hours. This will help to control inflammation, making it easier for your body to get blood and nutrients to the area and resolve the injured tissues.
Gently applying a compression dressing may help to temporarily support the injured joint and reduce swelling. If there are signs that this is reducing the circulation to the area (numbness, pins and needles, the skin turning white or blue etc) it should be removed immediately.
If the injury is in the lower limb (knee or ankle), elevate the area a little. This can make it easier for your body to drain fluids that might accumulate around the area, causing swelling. For example, if you’ve hurt your knee, sit with the knee raised on a low foot-stool may ease your pain.
Seek medical attention if you have any of the following.
- Pain that can’t be controlled with over the counter painkillers,
- If you can’t put weight on the injured limb
- Experience paralysis or loss of sensation
- Swelling is very bad.
Seek help from your local A&E department, urgent care centre or telephone 111 for advice.
How can Osteopathy help?
If you sustain an injury and have pain or swelling that fails to improve within a week, a visit to an osteopath may be beneficial. Call Julie Boyd at Valere Osteopathy and Naturopathy on 020 8444 6725. I will be able to assess the injury and give advice on treatment. Manual therapy may help your injury to heal quicker. I will give you some exercises to do at home that will help the current injury to heal and may prevent it happening again. Visit our Facebook page, follow us on twitter and look our website www.valereosteopathy.co.uk to find out more about osteopathy and how I may be able to help you.