This is Exactly What you Should do After a Sprain or Strain

It’s a nice fall day, you’re walking around your yard, and bang – you misstep and aggressively twist your ankle. In the rehab world, we call this a sprain. This refers to an acute injury to the ligaments of that area. A strain is similar, except it refers to an injury to a muscle. 

Anyways, back to the story. You’re walking around and you sprain your ankle. It swells up and you’re quickly advised to follow the RICE protocol. This stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It makes sense, however many weeks go by and although swelling and pain are down, you notice that it’s just not the same. Your ankle is still really stiff and you don’t seem to have the same confidence in your ankle that you used to. 

We are here to introduce you to a far superior protocol. A protocol that proves to be effective for any body region shortly after an injury. It goes by POLICE, which stands for protection, optimal loading, ice, compression, and elevation. Let’s break down each step and describe why it’s the better alternative.

PROTECTION

This one is pretty straight forward. It’s important to protect the affected area shortly after injury. You want to avoid any chance of excessive strain being placed on the tissues that just got injured. This, however, does not mean complete rest. It’s important to continue moving and loading the area within reason, which takes us to our next point. 

OPTIMAL LOAD

This can look different depending on the severity of your injury. In the case of a badly sprained ankle, optimal load can be light active range of motion of your foot and ankle early on, and progressive weight bearing and strengthening as you start to feel better. This is the biggest difference between RICE and POLICE. By loading optimally (and not completely resting), you are helping your body heal while also keeping your muscles and joints active and mobile. 

ICE APPLICATION

Although we’re not fans of excessive ice immediately after an injury, it can provide powerful pain relief as long as it’s used in moderation. The swelling that you may see after an initial sprain or strain is one of your bodies most effective ways of healing the injured tissues. Too much ice blunts this effect, so be sure to use it in moderation. 

COMPRESSION

Too much swelling isn’t a great thing either. That’s where compression comes into play. Firmly wrapping it with an elastic bandage can help mitigate swelling while also letting the body’s natural processes occur. 

ELEVATION

Keeping the affected area elevated above the level of the heart can also help with excessive swelling. 

And there you have it. A protocol that you can use anytime you or a loved one is confronted with an acute injury. Again, the Optimal Loading portion of the protocol is hands down the most important part. That’s where a qualified healthcare provider such as a physical therapist comes into play. Should you find yourself in a sticky situation, we’d love to be the ones to help guide you through the process!

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