In the last blog, we talked about the benefits and drawbacks to ice or heat and which is a better choice for your recovery needs, however we aren’t limited to just two choices. There are more therapies that can be utilized to speed recovery, limit swelling, soothe aches and pains, manage injuries, and allow the body to feel and move easier. In addition to cryotherapy and thermotherapy (ice and heat respectively), compression, elevation, and movement show great success in daily self-management, and rehabilitation from injury.
Compression has long been researched and recommended as a form of management for swelling and inflammation. Along with elevation, it’s an effective self-management technique used in recovery. In fact, it was a key component of the once popular and now debunked acronym RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Compression squeezes surrounding tissues of an injury to remove swelling, exudates, and other harmful byproducts of injury at the site and prevent adverse side-effects that may delay or inhibit healing. Compression assists in preventing possible immobilization of a joint due to swelling, which if there’s no fracture or gross instability, can help assist in the next key management technique; movement.
Movement may seem counter intuitive to an injury, but as current research shows and as long as there’s no fracture or gross instability, there are many beneficial effects to movement in speeding up healing, reducing possible co-disabilities associated with an injury, and minimizing pain. In fact, if you’re imagining hearing your old coaches or parents yelling at you to “walk it off” when you were hurt, they may have been right. Movement occurs through the same nerve fibers as those that transmit the feeling of pain to the brain. By overriding those pain signals and instead send messages to contract muscles, we effectively can reduce how much pain our brain is perceiving. Also, when we stop moving an area of our body the muscles begin to shrink and weaken. By continuing to move while fighting through mild pain and not flaring up pain levels too severe, you are actively engaging those areas of your body to reduce the amount of muscle atrophy that can occur with bracing or immobilization. Continuing to use that area of your body may provide beneficial physical therapy depending on the activities that you can do, and as research is pointing out this may be your key to a quicker recovery.
The main take-away from this message is that the days of managing recovery through rest, immobilization, ice only, and waiting 4-8 weeks before moving the injured area, are over. As chiropractors, we are trained to diagnose injuries and identify the best possible recovery plan to get you back in action.
Check out our Rehabilitation Page for more information!