Management of Acute Strains and Sprains
Within the first 72 hours of a musculoskeletal injury it is recommended to follow the P.O.L.I.C.E principle.
Protection: The goal is to avoid further tissue damage following an acute injury. Protection can include temporarily immobilizing the area with a splint, using crutches or resting the area for a short period of time.
Optimal Loading: Progressive loading of the injured tissue helps stimulate the healing process. Gentle passive of range of motion and progressing to active pain free range of motion helps to manage swelling, relieve stiffness and maintain strength around the injured area.
Ice: Applying ice to the acute injury helps to manage the swelling and minimize the pain experienced. Try applying ice to the injured area for 10-20min, with a towel or piece of clothing between to protect the skin from freezer burn.
Compression: To prevent further swelling, compression can be used. An elasticated bandage or wrap should be used to provide a comfortable amount of compressive force. Wrapping the area should start below the injured area, working upwards and should overlap the previous layer by a half. The compression should not cause pain or numbness, if so take off and adjust the amount of tension applied.
Elevation: Elevating the injured area above the level of the heart helps to minimize swelling and promote tissue healing. For example, stacking a couple of pillows to rest an injured ankle or elbow while lying down.
If you suspect a more serious injury like fracture or tendon rupture go to your family doctor, physiotherapist or emergency department for further investigation and recommendations.
By Olivia Martins, MSc. PT