When you push your body too far, land on your ankle the wrong way, or accidentally trip and fall, injuries are bound to happen. While, of course, broken bones and other serious injuries should be dealt with by a doctor, minor injuries can usually be treated on your own.
For injuries like twisted ankles or a sprained wrist, there are some simple steps you can take, and here, we’re taking you through what to do when you get injured.
Step 1: RICE Method
Immediately - 72 hours after injury
The RICE method is a common form of injury treatment. It’s an acronym that stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
- Rest: Especially in the first few hours after an injury, it’s important to stop all activity and rest your muscles.
- Ice: Using a bag of crushed ice, an ice pack, or a bag of frozen peas, icing your injury will help reduce pain and swelling. It’s best to apply the ice wrapped in a thin towel or cloth to protect your skin, applying for 20 minutes on and off.
- Compression: By wrapping your injury in a bandage, the compression reduces swelling by preventing an excess buildup of fluid. Compression should be firm but not so tight that you feel any tingling or discomfort as you don’t want to constrict blood flow.
- Elevation: By elevating the injury above your heart, you’ll also minimize swelling as excess fluid drains from the area.
Step 2: Use anti-inflammatories.
24 - 72 hours after injury
Within the first few days of dealing with an injury, you may want to take anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric to help reduce pain and inflammation.
During this time, you’ll want to continue the RICE method as well.
Step 3: Do not use heat if swelling persists.
First 72 hours after injury
It’s also important to keep in mind that while swelling persists (usually within the first three days after an injury) that you should NOT use heat on your injury.
While applying heat to a swollen area may feel soothing, it may actually increase the swelling by promoting blood flow. However, if the swelling has gone away, feel free to switch between ice and heat treatment.
Step 4: Slowly begin to stretch.
72 hours - One week after injury
By the third day, you’ll likely notice a lot less swelling, bruising, and pain. At this stage, you can slowly begin to wean off the RICE method and ease into some gentle stretches.
It’s important not to push through any extreme pain, and you won’t necessarily want to go straight back into your regular exercise routine. Just light movement to get the joints working again is enough to prevent stiffness and weakness.
Step 5: Injury Prevention
One month after an injury
In the coming weeks and months, you’ll notice that most of the symptoms of your injury will subside. However, it’s common to feel sensitivity or lingering tenderness for months after your injury has healed.
In some cases, once you’re injured, that part of your body is not likely to ever be the same as it was before.
So, it’s important to understand how to prevent further injury as past injuries are often more susceptible to becoming re-injured. A few tips to keep in mind include:
- Always warm up before a workout and cool down after a workout
- Ensure proper form during all exercise
- Avoid pushing too far beyond your limits
- Work with a trainer or coach who can help prevent injuries
- Use proper equipment like high-quality shoes and work out on stable surfaces
Step: 6: Know When to See a Doctor
If you’re worried that you’re dealing with a more severe injury than a strain or a sprain, you’ll want to see your doctor right away. Additionally, if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign of a deeper issue:
- Visible deformities
- Popping and crunching sounds
- Inability to put weight on the injured area
- Joint instability
- Trouble breathing, dizziness, or fever
Injuries are never fun, but it’s essential to take your time recovering from any injury, big or small. By taking things step by step, your body will thank you in the long run.