As a personal trainer, I’m often asked what the best course of basic injury treatment is to deal with a sprain or a pulled muscle.
Throughout my sporting career, I’ve always been fairly injury-prone so I’m able to give advice on basic injury treatment based on my own trial and error!
Before I begin, let me say that if you suspect that the injury is more serious than you initially thought (if for example you’re unable to sleep because of the pain) then give up the DIY approach and get yourself to your local A&E (if it hasn’t been closed down of course!)
With basic injury treatment for injuries such as a twisted ankle or a torn hamstring, I’m of the opinion that the most important thing is to ice the injured area as soon as possible.
Use an ice pack or my personal favourite, a pack of frozen peas.
Keep moving the pack over the injury site for twenty minutes (don’t just hold it there or you could get an ‘ice burn’).
It should feel cold (it is ice after all!) but not unbearably so – if it feels too cold, wrap the pack in a plastic bag or some kitchen towel to take the edge off the cold.
Once you’ve iced for twenty minutes, put the pack back in the freezer to get really cold again, take a twenty minute break and then ice the injury for a further twenty minutes.
I’ve found that just an hour of treatment (20 on/20 off/20 on) can halve your overall recovery time for many injuries.
The ice will numb the injured area, reducing swelling and acting as a natural pain killer.
Take an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen – of course make sure you aren’t allergic to it before you start your pill-popping!
Don’t bother with so-called stronger anti-inflammatories. Like many prescribed drugs, they have side effects galore and don’t actually work.
Do not apply any heat or balms to the injured area for 48 hours – instead keep icing the injury (for the one hour periods) as many times as you can.
Warming up or massaging the injured area is an instinctive thing to do, but fight against the instinct to do so. We want to reduce inflammation at the injury site – not increase it.
Once you reach the 48 hour mark post-injury, you should then begin heat and hot/cold based treatments.
Up until that point though, keep the weight off the injury and ice, ice and ice some more!