We all get soft tissue injuries from time to time – whether you’ve gone over on your ankle while out walking, or have had a child-related golf club accident! The end result is the same – bruising, swelling and plenty of pain.
If you have ever had a soft-tissue injury, you’ll have been told that RICE is the way to treat it: rest, ice, compression and elevation. This is the mnemonic we were all taught at school or in clubs, before bandaging each other up to look like a mummy.
More recently, the R-part (rest) has been debated, as completely resting an injury can actually make things worse – often the best plan is to rest immediately, but then to re-start gradual movement again.
This new approach has been captured into a new mnemonic – POLICE – which stands for:
Protection – Optimal Loading – Ice – Compression – Elevation
You can see that the last 3 are exactly the same as in RICE, but the new kids on the block are:
Protection makes us think differently about the injured area – it makes us think that we need to avoid damaging it anymore, but it doesn’t make us think that it has to be wrapped up and immobilised indefinitely.
Optimal loading means working out what you can do, without injuring yourself any more – certain types of movements are often ok – so long as you don’t twist, for example. These non-damaging movements are known as optimal loading. Keeping tissues moving allows proteins and hormones to be released which actually promote faster healing.
The difficulty is that patients often find it hard to work out what is optimal loading, what is doing more damage, and what is resting too much. It’s often a fine line between the 3 situations, but the speed of the recovery process depends on getting it right.
This is where a Physiotherapist is really valuable. We can use our experience, and the feel of a tissue, in addition to what you tell us, to help you find the perfect balance – which in turn will get you back on the mend much sooner. We can also help to advise on protection, such as braces, crutches and supports.
We will help you to build up your movement – as you heal, your optimal level of loading will change, so you need to change the intensity and power of any exercises. This needs to be done gradually and will also depend on your personal rate of healing (and general well-being).
Physiotherapists love treating acute injuries, as they improve so quickly compared to older injuries, so please get in touch sooner rather than later if you’ve hurt yourself. You can also Ask A Physio for free advice if you’ve hurt yourself – or call us on 01282 453 110.