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Swelling & Acute Injury Management

Suffering with an inflammatory condition or spraining a joint and it’s ballooned?


Although it can be painful, swelling and inflammation are actually natural and necessary parts of the healing process. That swelling or inflammation is your body’s way of increasing blood flow to the injured site, which will; 

  • Protect it from further damage, 

  • Remove waste and damaged cells from the site and 

  • Prevent infection.

To help manage the pain and swelling we recommend: 


POLICE - no don’t call 999! Instead, follow these principles below:


P - Protect. You want to ensure you don’t over strain a healing joint. In layman's terms: take constant breaks to see how you feel and if you should use the joint a bit more or give it a rest.


OL - Optimal Loading. You want to find out how much weight you should be putting through a joint. For example, if you have an ankle injury you might need some crutches to offload the joint while it heals. If you’re not sure about what your OL is then it’s recommended that you reach out to a physiotherapist. They can assess you and advise you accordingly and prescribe you some walking aids or a sling if required. 

I - Ice ice Baby! Applying ice can reduce swelling as it causes blood vessels to narrow (this is called vasoconstriction), and reduced swelling will result in a less painful injury. There’s debate in medical circles about the effectiveness of applying ice to an ankle injury - research suggests that it has minimal benefit. However top surgeons, other physiotherapists, clinical practices and here at PHT have seen it benefit patients. Trust us, it works wonders!

You’ve probably seen people using a bag of frozen peas to soothe an injury - frozen veggies will definitely do the job if you don’t have an ice pack on hand. 

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C - Compress. Here’s a PHT top tip: manage your swelling and in turn you will manage your pain! As well as ice, you can manage swelling by compressing the area, if it's practical.

See the video below!

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E - Elevate. 


Yes, you will need to attempt to have your injured area elevated as high up as you can. Thankfully though, you won’t need an elaborate setup like above. For example if your ankle is injured, you can just lie down with your leg on a pillow, or if sat down you can prop your leg up with cushions on top of a coffee table.


Elevating the injured area will help to manage swelling by allowing for the fluid containing toxins and waste products to be disposed of. Gravity will help the body bring those fluids back towards the heart to be broken down. 


To conclude, when you suffer an injury refer to the POLICE guidelines; don’t call 999 unless it’s a medical emergency! 


Check out the video below - you can save it on instagram or share it to others as a useful reminder of what to do!


If you're confused by any of this post and would like some more clarity contact us. If the POLICE guidelines don’t help reduce the swelling or pain of your injury then we’d advise you book a physiotherapy appointment. If you just want the swelling to go and without rehabilitation then you have the option of a lymphatic drainage massage.


Finally, this post is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice. If you have an injury that you are concerned about please seek the relevant medical advice.

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