Updated: Nov 9
It can happen to the best of us. Through a fall, an impact, a twisting motion, or rapid deceleration, we all agree that acute traumatic injury happens fast.
And then comes that moment when you sense something is wrong in your body, followed by swelling, pain, redness and a diminished ability to function at your best. Naturally, a flood of questions arises: Should I apply heat or Ice? Should I rest or should I push through the pain?
Here’s a summary of our recommended steps as a physical therapist when dealing with an acute injury:
For any acute injury, it's crucial to conduct an initial assessment to rule out serious conditions that require medical attention: fracture, concussion, complete muscle tear are some examples that require rapid care. When in doubt, seek immediate assistance from a healthcare professional.
For most of the other injuries, you can follow the “PEACE and LOVE” protocol developed by The Running Clinic. Here’s a summary:
Protection. The pain signal will be your best friend. Use it as a threshold to avoid actions that hurt.
Elevation. Elevate the limb higher than the heart 15 minutes, 3-5x/day.
Apply ice for pain relief if the pain is high. But once under control, limit its use. Note that ice is effective for pain, not swelling. Once it is well controlled, limit it.
Compression. Wrap a compression band around the affected area to reduce swelling and aid in healing.
Education. Ask questions! It is in our best interest for patients to be knowledgeable about their care. We work as a team with you and this benefits all of us.
Load. Complete rest is not recommended for long-term healing. Gradually applying weight on or using the limb when pain is well controlled is advised.
Optimism. People that are happy heal faster.
Vascularization. Blood flow and lymph circulation have a positive impact on your healing process. Use heat, light physical activity, or even light manual therapy to help increase your circulation.
Exercises. Yes, they are useful from day one to address pain, mobility, strength, balance, until the end of the rehab. Don’t hesitate to ask for help and find the right exercises for you.
In all cases, remember that the human body is made to heal and that there are a lot of things that can be done.
You got this!
The Glacier Physiolab team