An injury such as a sprain, strain, muscle pull, or tear, should receive immediate first aid to prevent complications and hasten the healing process. Remember initials R.I.C.E., which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
These 4 first aid measures can relieve pain, limit swelling and protect the injured tissues, all of which help speed healing, especially if applied immediately.
The damaged area may bruise, swell or bleed (externally or internally) and become inflamed. Healing starts as the damaged tissue is replaced by collagen, perhaps better known as scar tissue. Then apply patience and common sense before returning to your sport.
Rest: Rest is important immediately after injury for two reasons. First, rest is vital to protect the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or other tissue from further injury. Second, your body needs to rest so it has the energy it needs to heal itself most effectively.
Ice: Use ice bags, cold packs or even a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a thin towel to provide cold to the injured area. Don't apply the Ice directly on to the skin. Cold provides short-term pain relief and limits the swelling by reducing blood flow to the injured area. Never leave ice on an injury for more than 10-12 minutes at a time. Apply the Ice a few times per day.
Compression: Compression limits swelling, which slows down healing. Wrap a bandage lightly over the area. A throbbing means that the bandage is too tight.
Elevation: Elevating an injury reduces swelling. Wherever possible, raise the injured area above the level of the heart.
The R.I.C.E. treatment should take affect after 24 – 48 hours in the case of many sprains, strains or other injuries. But if your pain or swelling does not decrease after 48 hours, consult with your primary care physician or go to the emergency room, depending upon the severity of your symptoms. Even if the R.I.C.E. has been affective, and the swelling and pain are much less severe, have it checked and ask for advice on how best to completely remove any scar tissue.
Heat can be helpful once the injury moves out of the acute phase and swelling and bleeding has stopped. Moist heat will increase blood supply to the damaged area and promote healing.
Begin a gentle stretching program once all swelling has subsided. Work the entire range of motion of the injured joint or muscle, but be never force a stretch or you risk re-injuring the area. A good safe stretch should never cause pain. Finally, after the injury has healed, strengthening exercises can be begun. Start with easy esistance and use good form.