Managing an acute injury

Knowing how to immediately look after an injury for the first few days can speed up its recovery. In this blog we look at a more up to date protocol on how to help you manage it.

Many of us are well versed on the R.I.C.E acronym (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Which eventually was upgraded to P.R.I.C.E (P = Protect). Over the last few decades the advice on the management of acute injuries has rarely been contested. However, with growing research there has been a change in the way clinicians deliver advice on acute injuries to patients. With more recent research there is a new acronym called P.O.L.I.C.E. Standing for Protect Optimal Loading Ice Compression Elevation.

What’s changed?

The term REST can be completely misinterpreted. While it’s important to have a balance of rest AND loading. Too much rest can lead to
deconditioning of tissues, stiffness and weakness. By OPTIMALLY LOADING tissue it provides the right levels of stress to encourage tissue healing, while assisting with the drainage of swelling.

What is the right amount of load?

Firstly, you must listen to the pain and not try to push through it. But if in doubt seek advice from a health professional, whether it be a Dr or Physio. Assessing the injury will help clear any serious problems, like fractures or ruptures. After having the serious issues cleared, you can be guided on the appropriate movements or weight bearing exercises to perform.

If in doubt seek advice from a Health professional

Additionally, to help provide the right loading you may require a moon boot, crutches, brace or strapping for support. Before being gradually weaned off.

Ice

I’ve previously questioned the value of applying ice for reducing swelling. There is growing evidence that shows that we need some swelling to aid in the healing process and  by using ice to minimise swelling, we could be slowing down the rate of tissue healing. 

See: hold the ice in RICE

But using the ice instead to reduce pain, by limiting nerve conduction and lowering tissue temperature. This can be effective within 5-10 minutes of application. Doing this every hour will bring pain levels down allowing you to move or load the tissue as tolerated.

Side note: Make sure you regularly check tissue quality while icing to avoid frost bite.

Compression and Elevation

These two are the least controversial in their benefit of recovery from acute injuries. Having compression helps maintain swelling to a manageable level and the area can still move normally. Making sure the compression is tight but not causing pain or numbness. You can use crape bandaging or a tubigrip.

Elevation, particularly for the lower limb helps again at minimising excessive swelling. While elevated it helps to be gently moving the
area, which also assists with tissue healing and swelling.

Anytime you’re dealing with a new injury it’s important follow the most up to date advice to help you recover as quickly and safely as possible. By seeking physio, we can offer you that guidance and support as you progress. At Fundamental Physio Newmarket, you’ll be thoroughly assessed to identify the extent of your injury, then put on the right treatment plan to help you return to normal activity. 


References

Bleakley et al 2012 PRICE needs updating, should we call the POLICE? Br J Sports Med 

Algafly et al. 2007. The effect of cryotherapy on nerve conduction velocity, pain threshold and pain tolerance. Br J Sports Med

Malanga et al 2015. Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury. Postgrad Med

Ligament Sprains & Timeframes

Ligament sprains are one of the most common injuries, as their main role is to support the
joint. If poorly managed there is a risk of further injury.

Patience is not about doing nothing. Patience is about doing everything you can. But being patient about Results

What are ligaments?

Ligaments are fibrous tissues that attach from one bone to another across a joint. The tissue is very strong, varies in thickness and is dense with nerve receptors. Its role is to provide stability, guide movement, maintain joint shape and act as position sensors for the joint.

Previously ligaments were thought of as inactive structures, they are in fact complex structures that influence the localised joint and the entire body once injured (1).

How are ligaments injured?

Ligament sprains are the result of loads exceeding the maximum strength of the ligament with little/no time to recover. This force causes acute tears of the ligament fibres.

These structures can be damaged through several mechanisms, like contact or direct trauma, dynamic loading, repetitive overuse, structural vulnerability and muscle imbalance (2). A sprain of ligaments usually affect the following joints:

How does it affect us?

As with most soft tissue damage there will be the typical acute pain and swelling. Injury to a ligament will compromise joint stability and ability to control movement. It can also reduce our balance, proprioception and muscle reflex time (3). With poor joint position comes restriction in movement and weakness of the surrounding muscles.

What types of ligament sprains are there?

The severity of ligament injury is graded using various clinical classifications. The most common is a three-level system that determines structural involvement.

Grade 1 Grade 1 sprain1

  • Slight stretching and microscopic tearing of the ligament fibres
  • Mild tenderness and swelling around the ankle
  • Heals within 1-2 weeks 

Grade 2

  • Partial tearing of 10-90% of the ligament fibresGrade 2 sprain1.jpg
  • Moderate tenderness and swelling around the ankle
  • Partial structural instability when tested by Physio or doctor
  • Healing takes up to 6 weeks

Grade 3

  • Complete tear of the ligamentGrade 3 sprain1
  • Significant tenderness and swelling around the ankle
  • Complete instability when put under stress
  • Poor weight bearing
  • Conservative treatment can take 12-16 weeks
  • Potential reconstructive surgery is required

*Timeframes are based upon the guidance of a professional. Treating injuries on your own poses a risk of not fully recovering and a greater chance of re-injury.

For an appointment, call on 095290990 

  1. Frank, (2004) Ligament structure, physiology and function. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact
  2. Gabriel (2002) Ligament injury and Repair: Current concepts. Hong Kong Physiotherapy J
  3. Hauser (2013) Ligament Injury and Healing: A Review of Current Clinical Diagnostics and Therapeutics. The Open Rehabilitation Journal

Recovering from an ankle injury

Ankle sprains are a common injury in sport. If not assessed by the physio and guided correctly through the recovery they often struggle to get back to normal levels and are more likely to re-injure the joint.

Ankle sprains

Ankle sprains account for up to 30% of all sports injuries (1). When the ankle joint is put under strain from sudden twisting forces or landing in an uneven position it causes too much stress on the supportive ligaments, resulting in a tear. More commonly seen in sports with lateral movement and jumping, such as basketball or volleyball. But everyday life, misjudging steps or walking on uneven ground.

Symptoms:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Loss of balance

What structures get damaged?

Fractures

The ankle consists of 3 bones, the Tibia,ankle fractures Fibula and Talus. Depending on the force from the injury we can have fractures of the tibia and fibula. 25% of ankle sprains could have some form of fracture (2), whether it be a complete break, a chip of the bone or the ligament pulling the bone from its attachment. An Xray would help eliminate this diagnosis and help guide your rehab.

Ligaments sprains

The ankle is the pivot point for the foot and the leg, it gives us a range of different movements. We have ligaments aligning in various directions to provide support for the ankle. When movement is taken too far ligaments can be damaged. On the outer part of the ankle we have 3 ligaments, the inner part has a large dense ligament and the tibia and fibula have connecting ligaments.

An ankle sprain can have more than one ligament involved, but the most common ligament to get strained is the Anterior Talo-Fibila Ligament (ATFL), affected by up to 73% of ligament injuries (3). Most commonly brought on from rolling the ankle.

The degree of damage to ligaments is classified by grades 1-3. Grade 1 meaning small tears of the ligament fibers, Grade 2 a partial tear of the ligament between 10-90% and grade 3 being a complete rupture. All grades have different recovery times and need to be guided appropriately for the best outcome.

Management of my ankle sprain

In the first 72 hours you will go through the first stage of healing. During this time you want to move the ankle within your comfort level, don’t push into sharpness. Compress and elevate the joint to manage the swelling. If you wish to use ice (5 minutes minimum) and NSAID’s, use it sparingly only to control the pain. See my blog about ice for more info.

Diagnosing an ankle sprain and rehab

If you have sprained an ankle it’s important that you are assessed by a Dr or Physiotherapist. Taking a detailed history and clinically assessing your ankle will help us come to a clear diagnosis of your injury. Xrays and ultrasound scans may also be required.

Someone that sprains their ankle is 5 times more likely to sprain their ankle again (4)

Once we understand the severity of the injury, treatment can be more specific to achieve the quickest recovery. Physio can assist in number of ways:

  • Education – Understanding the tissue recovery, the mechanics of the ankle, knowing your treatment plan and the stages of your rehab.
  • Gait re-training – You may start off on crutches or a moonboot, but then weaned off and guided to walk normally.
  • Exercise prescription including sport specific training – As you improved you will be provided the appropriate exercises. Including exercises relating you your sport to make a better transition.
  • Balance exercises – Progressing balance is essential to preventing further ankle sprains.
  • Taping – There are a number of strapping techniques for swelling/bruising in the initial stage. Strapping can ease you back safely into sport.
  • Soft tissue massage – This helps stimulate blood flow and encourage healing. Also, helps desensitise the nervous system to encourage better movement.
  • Mobilisations – to assist in better movement of the joint and gives you more confidence to use it.

For an appointment, call on 095290990 

  1. Fong et al, (2007)A systematic review on ankle injury and ankle sprain in sports. Sports Med. 2007
  2. Luciano et al, (2012) Epidemiological study of foot and ankle injuries in recreational sports. Acta Ortop Bras
  3. Woods et al, (2003) The Football Association Medical Research Programme: an audit of injuries in professional football: an analysis of ankle sprains. A Br J Sports Med.
  4. McKay et al, (2001) Ankle injuries in basketball: injury rate and risk factors. Br J of Sports Med.