By Steven Hefferon, PTA, CMT
As a sports massage therapist, I’ve seen more than my fair share of muscle sprains and strains. But, you certainly don’t have to be a professional athlete to accidentally twist your ankle, sprain your wrist or experience a similar injury. That’s why knowing about PRICE now can help you avoid paying a bigger price later when it comes to pain and recovery time.
PRICE is a mnemonic for remembering a simple set of first aid steps useful for treating sprains and strains. PRICE stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation of the injured area. When practiced immediately after injury, PRICE can shave days or weeks off of your recovery time.
For a quick recovery, it is crucial you avoid any further injury. Quickly apply an elastic bandage, splint, or sling should to immobilize the injured area. Crutches may be needed for an injured foot, ankle, or knee to prevent your body weight from causing even more injury to the weakened area.
Stop using the injured body part for at least 24 to 48 hours after injury. This isn’t being a baby – it’s called proper care of your body. Rest is essential to the healing process because it allows swelling time to subside.
Reintroduce movement to the injured area after a day or two of rest (once the injury no longer hurts while immobilized). This light movement prevents the joints and muscles from stiffening up from disuse. Don’t push too hard – stop if it hurts to avoid re-injury.
For quick healing, apply ice as soon as possible, ideally within 15 minutes of the injury. You can use a cold pack, a Ziploc bag of crushed ice, or even a bag of frozen peas or corn.
When applying the cold compress, protect your skin from frostbite by either wrapping the compress in a towel or by moving the compress in a massaging motion so no area of skin is constantly exposed to the cold.
Ice should be applied for up to 20 minutes each hour for the first 48 hours. The ice treatments will minimize swelling and slow inflammation by constricting blood vessels.
Snugly wrap the injury with an elastic bandage to reduce swelling and pain. The wrap should provide firm pressure from a few inches below the injury to a few inches above, but it should not be so tight that it cuts off circulation. If you become tingly or numb, rewrap a little more loosely.
Raise the injured area above heart level to minimize swelling. If you’re not able to lie around all day to keep an injured leg elevated, at least prop it up to hip level until you can lie down.
If you follow all five steps of PRICE, most minor sprains and strains will heal within a couple of days. Those over 25 years old should also consider regularly taking a proteolytic enzyme supplement, which helps your body fight inflammation and breaks down accumulated scar tissue. Doing so can lead to a faster recovery from injuries and help your overall health.
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