How To Heal Fast And Correctly

Ouch! What was that! A tweaked ankle? A twinge in your lower back? An old football injury back to say hello? No problem — if you suffer a minor or moderate injury, you’ll be back to normal in no time if you take care of yourself the right way.

Baseball player sliding

Day One: follow a basic approach abbreviated as R.I.C.E. — rest, ice, compression, elevation.

If we’re talking about a sprained ankle, for example, you put your foot on a pillow higher than your heart so it can drain. Then you compress it with an Ace bandage around some ice for 10-20 minutes. Keep icing it three or four times on day one. Now you’re ready to get back to normal as soon as possible.

Days Two-Five: During this period you’re definitely getting away from ice. You want to work more on function and see what your comfort zone is to use a normal motion. This is when you want to transition to heat. You can tell when to use ice or heat by gauging your pain. If it hurts severely to walk with a sprained ankle, for example, you’re going to use ice. If it’s just a sore shoulder, use heat.

Days Six-Fourteen: The goal is to get back to full function without pain. If you do not regain full function without pain in two weeks, it’s time to give me a call. If you limit your motion and just learn to live with it, you’re in danger of losing that motion for good and simply having all body parts adapt to it to compensate. The danger is that limited shoulder motion, for example, will eventually ruin the neck.

The Neck Is An Exception

R.I.C.E. is a good approach for minor injuries of the ankle, knee, lower back, shoulder, pretty much anywhere. However — and let me emphasize this — pretty much anywhere except the neck. Do not follow this approach with a neck injury. The neck does not like ice although sometimes you have to use it. What ice does is constrict the blood vessels, which is good for inflammation. But around the neck it tends to create more stiffening. Then you heal with less motion but you don’t know it because other vertebra become adept at moving more. The top two vertebra control about 60 percent of the movement because there’s no disc there. The rest of the vertebra with disc only move about 3-5 degrees to each side. So if you lose that motion at the top it’s serious. When you use ice you create a greater stiffening reaction. Moist heat or dry heat is not going to inflame it because it’s superficial but it does relax it. If you have a neck injury, please give me a call. You want that to heal the right way and I can help you with that.

Sprains and Strains

All sprains and strains mean there are tears of tissue — either ligament or muscle. A sprain is a tear of ligament; a strain involves some tearing of muscle. When a ligament or muscle tears, it repairs with scar tissue. There are three grades of sprain.

Grade 1 is minor. But the tear involved is so minimal that you’re up and walking pretty quickly and you walk right through some minor pain. Rarely are there any residual problems with a Grade 1 sprain. That’s the time to use the R.I.C.E. process.

A Grade 2 sprain involves more tearing. It does not involve full avulsion — that’s a Grade 3 and involves surgery — but it does involve a lot more scar tissue. That’s why an orthopedist might say that you’re better off with a clean break than a bad sprain. Bones heal very well but ligaments do not and they control the function along with the muscles and tendons. If you get a Grade 2 sprain, it’s also time for the R.I.C.E. process. Then follow all the therapeutic exercises required for get full function back. Don’t give up early by saying “I can deal with this.” Keep your exercises going for a few weeks after you’ve stopped feeling pain. If you have any doubt about whether you’ve healed or not, give me a call. Together, we’ll determine if you have full functionality and make sure you heal properly.