The result of accident or trauma to a specific area of the body (such as muscle, tendon, ligament or bone). Acute normally refers to the first 3 weeks of an injury.
To ice or not to ice?
There are not many of us out there who have not used ice treatment on an injury. It has been drummed into us all for decades. But now the latest acute injury guidelines from the British Medical Journal do not include using ice at all! The research shows that although ice does in fact reduce pain and swelling from an injury, in the acute stage, we should instead let the swelling do it's job. Inflammation is present to immobilise the affected area and protect it. It also brings in inflammatory agents to boost the healing response and repair the tissues damaged. Ice and anti inflammatory medications may have a role in other stages of healing but not acutely in the first few weeks.
Immediate care of an acute injury
PROTECT: avoid activities which worsen pain and swelling
ELEVATE: try to lift the affected limb above the height of the heart. You could use a sling for wrist injuries, or place an ankle up on a chair. For long lasting elevation, it may be useful to raise the end of the bed mattress 5-10 cm using some books.
AVOID ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES AND ICE: in the acute phase of healing, these both delay tissue healing.
COMPRESS: using bandages, strapping or tubigrip to reduce excess swelling.
EDUCATION: know that swelling in a normal healing response that we need to support.
LOAD: let pain guide your return to normal activities in the acute phase.
OPTIMISM: stay positive and confident about how amazing the human body is and how we repair ourselves.
VASCULARISATION: keep active but choose painfree forms of exercise.
EXERCISE: restore your movement, strength and balance leading to a full recovery.