Injury Treatment Guide
The following information can be used for the Initial Treatment following an injury such as mild sprains, strains or sports injuries.
It is based on PRICE guidelines = Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
Recognising when pain is a sign of injury or when the body is being stressed beyond its capability is important. Tissue damage usually involves a history of trauma and is often accompanied with swelling, bruising, bony deformity, locking or giving way, and severe pain. Injuries to the muscles, tendons and ligaments are often referred to as sprains and strains.
When to seek medical help
Most sprains and strains are relatively minor and can be treated at home (see below).
However, you should visit a Minor Injuries Unit, your GP or physiotherapist if you think you have a sprain or strain and:
- the pain is particularly severe
- you can’t move the injured joint or muscle
- you can’t put any weight on the injured limb or it gives way when you try to use it
- the injured area looks crooked or has unusual lumps or bumps (other than swelling)
- you have numbness, discolouration or coldness in any part of the injured area
- the symptoms haven’t started to improve within a few days of self treatment
Treating sprains and strains
If the injury is minor, you can look after yourself by using “PRICE therapy” and “avoiding HARM”. These are described below.
FOR THE FIRST 24 TO 48 HOURS AFTER INJURY
- Protect or support your injured body part for the first 24 to 48 hours after injury. Use a sling or a splint if that helps.
- Rest your injured body part for first 24 to 48 hours, avoiding activities that cause additional pain, swelling, or discomfort.
- Try to move your injured body part gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you are awake.
- You should still go about normal daily activities as much as possible but avoid further strain by taking regular rests.
- If you have had an injury or flare-up in the last two days, wrap crushed ice in a damp towel and hold it for five to ten minutes against the part of your body that hurts.
- You can do this every two to three hours.
- Make sure you use a damp towel between the ice and the skin to avoid ice burn.
- Alternatively, you could try sports sprays and gel packs, which do a similar job.
- Apply compression with a bandage or tubigrip type of support until the swelling goes down.
- Loosen the bandage if the pain increases or the area becomes numb.
- Wrap the bandage starting from the end farthest from your heart.
- Caution: do not make the bandage too tight and do not wear tubigrip or any compression bandage in bed at night.
- Elevate the injured body part above the level of your heart as much as possible during the first 24 to 48 hours, especially when sitting or lying down.
- Make sure the body part is supported eg. with pillows or slings.
AFTER 48 HOURS FOLLOWING INJURY
- You should try to use the painful area more.
- Do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work. This is important and the best way to get better.
- Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement.
- If your injury is in your leg you can reduce the strain on it by:
- Leading with your good leg when going upstairs.
- Leading with your problem leg when going downstairs
- Using a handrail if there is one.
For the first 72 hours after a sprain or muscle strain, you should avoid HARM. This means you should avoid:
- Heat– such as hot baths, saunas or heat packs.
- Alcohol– drinking alcohol will increase bleeding and swelling, and slow healing.
- Running– or any other form of exercise that could cause more damage.
- Massage– which may increase bleeding and swelling.
Should I Take Painkillers?
Painkillers can help you keep moving. However, it is important that if you are already taking medication for something else or have other health problems you check with the pharmacist at your local chemist before taking painkillers for your problem.
If you feel you still need pain relief after four days then speak to your pharmacist for advice.
What About Work?
You will recover faster and everybody will benefit if you can stay at or get back to work as early as possible. Don’t worry if you still hurt, as you may only have to do light work at first. Try to stay active and remember to keep moving. Speak to your manager about any concerns you may have. For free and confidential advice about work, call the Healthy Working Lives Adviceline on 0800 019 2211.
What About Sports?
You should take time before you take part in any sports after an injury. If you take part in sports too soon you could flare things up again. You should have no swelling and be able to move your injured body part properly. You should have full or close to full strength. If you need guidance or help on this, it may be beneficial to see a physiotherapist who specialises in the rehabilitation of injuries.
Physiotherapy aims to restore movement and function to an injured area of the body. The physiotherapist may show you exercises to help improve the range of motion and return normal function to the injured area.
This may reduce your risk of experiencing long-term problems or injuring the area again.
For further information, or if you require assistance in your recovery following an injury, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Physiostation.
This information has been adapted from NHS inform: Health information you can trust.