Frequently, when engaged in repetitive or strenuous activities, we incur minor injuries. There are some easy steps you can take on your own to help you heal more quickly and return to your normal activities.
First 72 hours:
Rest. Take it as easy as you can on the area of injury. Stop doing the activity that caused the injury and try not to participate in any activity that exacerbates the pain and inflammation.
Ice the area of injury. Apply an ice pack, do ice massage, or an ice bath depending what is most appropriate for the area. There are four stages in cold therapy: Cold, Burning, Aching, and Numb. It is important to allow yourself to go through all four stages to minimize swelling and pain. If possible, do this several times the first 24 hours, treatments should be a minimum of two hours apart.
Compression. Apply an ACE bandage or similar dressing to the injury if possible, be sure not to apply too tightly or cut off circulation. If you experience throbbing, loosen the dressing.
Elevation. Raise the injury (if possible) above the level of the heart to relieve inflammation.
After 72 hours:
If the swelling and pain have diminished you are ready for contrast therapy, which is the alternating of heat and ice to the affected area. If you are able to submerge the area, either in a sink or buckets, use a contrast bath. Fill one sink or bucket with ice water and the other with hot water (be careful no to burn yourself), then dip first in the cold, then hot, then cold again. It is important to START AND FINISH with the ice. The same is true if you are using hot and cold packs as well. Here are the general recipes:
HOT : ICE : HOT
5 min 10 min 5 min
HOT : ICE : HOT
30 seconds 2 minutes 30 seconds
Seek professional help. If you pain is intense or unbearable,or there was any trauma to the head, go to a doctor to rule out any serious injury. For less serious injury such as strains and sprains, seek the help of a sports massage therapist or physical therapist who is trained in injury rehabilitation. These professionals can help you relieve pain, heal more quickly, and prevent future injury. They also will be able to guide you with your own home self care.
In addition to these steps after pain and swelling has begun to decrease begin very gentle stretching of an injured muscle and/or careful strengthening of the muscles that surround an injured joint.