New Injury Advice (P.R.I.C.E.)
P.R.I.C.E. is an acronym that stands for protect, rest, ice, compress, and elevate. It is used as a first-aid measure mostly for acute injuries but chronic injuries can also benefit. An acute injury develops suddenly like a sprained ankle, while chronic injuries develop over time.
Your main enemy in the hours following an acute injury is inflammation. The more swelling occurs, the more affected your tissue will be and the longer it will take to get back to full strength. That’s why it’s important to start the P.R.I.C.E. regimen at once.
Protect the injured area from further damage by immediately ceasing the offending activity. In the case of a sprained ankle, protect the joint by using crutches or any other means to avoid putting weight on it.
The rest component of the PRICE protocol seems self-explanatory. Let your injured joint or muscle rest while the pain and swelling goes down. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t exercise the other parts of your body that are not injured.
Icing an injury constricts the blood vessels, which serves a dual purpose: it minimizes pain and may reduce inflammation, particularly when used immediately following the injury. Ice should be applied as soon as possible after the injury has occurred, held there for 20 minutes, and reapplied three or four times a day for the first 48 hours. Don’t apply heat during the first 48 hours, and don’t massage the injury. Both will increase the flow of fluids that contribute to inflammation.
- Use crushed ice or small ice cubes that can conform to the shape of the injury. A bag of frozen vegetables such as peas or corn also works well.
- Wrap the ice in plastic.
- Place a towel over the skin to prevent the skin from freezing.
- Use an elastic bandage or athletic tape to tie the ice compress over the affected area.
Keep the injury wrapped with a compression bandage to further prevent swelling. Athletic tape provides the best, most form-fitting compression but since it is difficult to apply yourself without training or practice, only a professional should apply it. The next best recommendation is an elastic bandage and his third option is a Neoprene sleeve.
Injuries in the legs need to be kept elevated above waist level to reduce swelling. Keep the injured leg elevated even while sleeping.
Heat versus Ice
Heat and ice are both helpful in healing injuries but they work in very different ways. Ice decreases blood flow by initially slowing blood flow and constricting the blood vessels. Your brain then perceives that area of the body as cold, and sends more blood there to warm it up. The first few days following an injury, ice can be extremely helpful for reducing swelling.
Heat increases blood flow by opening up (dilating) the blood vessels. It can be used beginning 48 to 72 hours after an acute injury. If used earlier, it may increase swelling and inflammation. After two or three days, both heat and ice can be used. Alternating ice with heat (called contrast baths) can have the effect of flushing stale inflammatory fluids from the area and bringing in nutrient-rich fluids.
Using these protocols will help control any injuries you may suffer. Any serious injury or anything lasting more than 2-3 days should be assessed by your doctor of chiropractic.