It’s an unfortunate fact that soft tissue injuries and an active lifestyle go hand in hand. Statistics show that, the more often you place the stress of vigorous exercise on your body, the more likely you are to get injured.
Striker Craig Bellamy suffers an injury while playing for Cardiff City. Image from Wikipedia
But don’t panic. The key is to be prepared for when an injury occurs, and to know just what to do to get yourself back on your feet.
You may have heard of the RICE method. This is a tried and tested set of primary treatments which serve to reduce the pain and damage caused by an injury, and decrease recovery time. Understanding RICE can give you a significant edge in beating a soft-tissue injury like a sprain or strain.
R is for Rest
This is surely the most intuitive part of the four letter mnemonic. If you have injured a part of your body, chances are you don’t feel like using that part of the body straight away, so let it rest.
Don't put weight on the injured body part. Image from Wikipedia
If you have suffered a lower limb injury, make sure you are not placing any weight on the affected area. Ask someone to support you while you move to a place which is more comfortable and convenient to rest. If your injury is to your upper body, avoid any movements which place stress on the injured part.
Rest is fundamentally damage limitation. It prevents you causing further injury to the stricken part of your body. It also reduces inflammation, something which can cause a lot of pain following a soft-tissue injury.
I is for Ice
It’s common knowledge that applying ice to an inflamed injury reduces swelling and discomfort, but it is maybe less widely known that the way in which the ice is applied is vital to a speedy recovery.
Image from Wikipedia
For starters, don’t simply swathe your injured body part in bags of frozen peas and settle in for a weekend-long Breaking Bad marathon on the sofa. Studies show that chilling a wounded limb for an extended amount of time actually inhibits the healing process and could leave you laid up for longer.
What’s more, applying ice directly to the skin can result in painful ischemia in the affected area. Always wrap the ice pack or other frozen object in a towel before applying, and limit application to 20 minutes out of every hour.
C is for Compression
This one may be a little counter-intuitive. So you’ve just received a soft-tissue injury; the last thing you want to do is go pressing an injured body part that you’d much rather just be left alone.
Image from Wikipedia
In fact, compressing the injury using an elasticated bandage is a good way to increase the rate of recovery and reduce painful inflammation. The injury will always swell – there is no avoiding this – but too much swelling can cause a variety of medical problems and a great deal of discomfort, so reducing the swelling using a compression bandage is vital.
Wrap the injured body part in a bandage so as to render it immobile, but not so tight that the muscle cannot contract. You may also want to use a compression stocking or sleeve similar to those used to combat deep vein thrombosis on long haul flights.
E is for Elevation
The last – and probably most comfortable – word on our list is ‘elevation’. This simply means raising the affected body part higher than the level of your heart. This promotes blood flow and paves the way for a speedy recovery.
Image courtesy of John M, Flickr
Use a couple of pillows to prop up the injured limb and find a comfortable place to relax. It might be time for that Breaking Bad boxset now, after all.
Following these steps should see you back on the football field/tennis court/cricket pitch in no time. Just remember that these are only primary first aid tips; most of the time an injury like this will heal naturally at home, but if discomfort or weakness persists, seek professional help!