Happy May! As the weather improves (hopefully!), daylight increases and outdoor activities begin to pick up, injuries are bound to happen; it's part of being human. With acute injuries (injuries that occur suddenly and are typically linked with trauma), it's important to follow a certain principle in order to minimize the effects of injury. Healthcare professionals typically call this principle "R.I.C.E," which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (some sources also add a "P" for "Protection" to the acronym, making it "P.R.I.C.E."). Each of these components is important to full recovery from injury, but we'd like to focus on compression for the purpose of this post.
In the early phases of injury, your body is going through many changes. The initial phase typically involves swelling and bleeding, whether there's a cut to the skin or an injury below the skin. During this phase, clotting occurs so that an inflammatory phase can begin. During the inflammatory phase, complex chemical processes occur in order to rebuild and repair the damaged tissue. As this process progresses, the healing tissue matures, remodels and strengthens, which enables you to achieve full healing. The process of healing is generally the same for different types of injuries, but time frames of healing vary significantly. This is where expert medical advice is warranted, especially if you are trying to return to sport or prior activities.
During the healing phase, compression greatly helps prevent the build-up of fluid in the area of injury. While the build-up of fluid is essential for healing, too much fluid can lead to issues later on; compression greatly limits improper build-up. Not only does compression limit swelling, but it can also prevent unwarranted motion that could further damage the injured tissue. Ways to compress an injured area include ace wrap, bandages, tape or compression sleeves. Now, it's important to avoid over-compression, which is determined if you have tingling/numbness, increased pain or discomfort and/or loss of color in the affected area.
As clinicians, we often use compression techniques during rehab to modulate pain and improve motion in areas that may be restricted. So, not only is compression helpful for acute injuries, but it can also be helpful in chronic injuries. If you have further questions, please give us a call at 622-2500. Otherwise, don't forget to compress!