6 Things You Need to Know Before the Next Time You’re Injured

You never plan for an accident, right?  I mean, that is the reason they are called an accident.  It’s unexpected.  It’s not planned for and it can throw a monkey wrench into your smooth sailing plans.  Knowing these 6 tips can help you respond appropriately to common musculoskeletal injuries and get you better…faster.

Do you know the proper way to handle injury?


Musculoskeletal injuries are very common.  Whether it’s an ankle sprain from a game of basketball, a low back strain from pulling the boat in at the lake cabin, or an injured neck from a bad golf swing…injuries are common.  When managed properly you can provide sufficient healing to the area that is strong enough, and healthy enough, to prevent future re-injury.  However, if managed inappropriately, then you not only increase your risk of future re-injury because of weaker tissues, but you also increase your risk of developing chronic pain.

The first 72 hours after an injury are really the most critical in setting the proper stage for adequate healing.  That is why some preparation and knowledge is necessary because, in some cases, you can’t get into a clinic for treatment in the first 72 hours.  Let’s say you are out at the camp site and plan on being there for the next couple of days, but while clearing the area you rolled your ankle and are feeling the pain.  What are you to do?

Historically taking care of soft tissue injures (those injuries involving the muscles, ligaments and tendons) involved a technique using the acronym R.I.C.E.  This later developed into adding a P making it P.R.I.C.E.  I am going to add another P, so I guess you can say I am going to talk to you about the P.P.R.I.C.E. Technique.  Before we get into this, please understand this is advice for your common musculoskeletal injury.  If you have a broken bone, bleeding, open wounds, or other severe injury then call 911 or go to the emergency department.

The P.P.R.I.C.E. Technique can help you recover faster, manage your pain, and prevent future problems.  Here’s the meaning behind the acronym letters.

P – Phone

If possible, call your chiropractor to schedule an appointment as soon after your injury as possible.  The research shows that even providing controlled passive range-of-motion prevents future development of adhesions and chronic pain.  So whether you are in a car accident, jet ski wipeout, or taken out by an over-zealous croquet player…you should get in to see an expert right away.  Chiropractors are well trained and skilled in managing soft tissue injuries safely and appropriately.

P – Protect

You want to protect the area of injury to keep it from risk of further injury.  If you hurt your back moving a landscaping boulder…STOP moving the boulder, and take off the Superman cape until you can get some proper help and not hurt your back to a greater extent.  In the first 72 hours you also want to protect against excessive inflammation.  Now inflammation is a good thing and is quite necessary within the initial phases of healing.  However, you want to provide support to the inflammatory process.  

In my office, and in my home, I keep a canister of Acute Phase Packets readily available. (If you want to buy some of these you can find out how by clicking here).  This canister contains only 9 small packets of nutrients.  That is only enough for 1 packet three times a day for the first three days of an injury.  Remember, the first 72 hours are critical.  These packets contain nutrients designed to support tissue health, relieve minor muscle pain, and provides targeted antioxidants to help protect connective tissues from damaging free radicals.  I would strongly encourage you to have a canister as part of your first aid kit, or in your supplement cabinet.  (In my house we have supplement cabinets, not medicine cabinets).  If you are injured the Acute Phase is designed for the initial 72 hour period and need to be taken immediately and then for the next 72 hours.

R – Rest

You need to rest the injured area.  If you sprain your knee, or your ankle, you might have to postpone that 25-mile mountain hike with your 65 pound backpack.  You need to rest the area and not put too much weight on the injured parts.  For lower back injuries you should lie on your back with a pillow beneath your knees, lie on your side with a pillow between your knees, sit in a comfortable chair, and stand with  one leg raised on a small stool (or similar object).  These positions should be changed frequently.  The advice of complete bed rest is the worst thing you can do for musculoskeletal low back injuries because it can lead to loss of muscle very quickly.  Research shows that even a couple of days of bed rest can lead to weakening of the lower back muscles.

I – Ice

Acute (or recent) injuries need to use ice to decrease inflammation.  In the first 72 hours of an injury you should use exclusively ice to gently decrease inflammation and reduce pain.  Heat packs will draw more inflammation to the area and can delay healing time and make you have more pain.  Ice packs should never be applied directly to the skin, but instead should be wrapped in towel first.  Place the ice pack on the injured area for 15-20 minutes every 60-90 minutes for acute injuries.

C – Compress

If the injury involves a limb or extremity you want to use compression to the area as well.  Use an Ace type bandage and provide a snug wrap to the injured area.  Be cautious to not use too tight a wrap that will affect blood flow.  If you are wrapping your elbow and you start feeling your hand go numb and turn blue then it’s too tight.  Use the compression for the majority of the day.  In some cases you may want to remove the compression to ice more thoroughly and then you can put the compression back on.

E – Elevate

Elevate the affected limb.  If you rolled your ankle, then this means that you want to be seated and keep the affected leg propped up in front of you.  You can also lie on your back and have your leg propped up on some pillows.  This elevation helps the fluids that are building up from the injury drain in a healthy way.

Don’t ignore your injuries, or just wait for them to go away on their own.  When your muscles are damaged there is still a lot of information that goes through the spinal cord and into your brain.  If this information is painful then you can lose the gating mechanism of pain which leads to a chronic pain problem.  You can also start to favor other movement patterns and create problems in other areas down the road.  I have seen many patients with chronic lower back pain that was actually stemming from an old, poorly treated and mismanaged ankle injury.

Many people wonder why not just take some NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like the over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen.  The problem with these is that NSAIDs do relieve pain but they accelerate joint damage.  Since there are options available to reduce pain and promote soft tissue healing, it would make sense to choose something like this.  For many people NSAIDs are also damaging to the kidney and liver.  If you are in extreme pain and take pain relievers, make sure you take them only as directed, for the shortest time possible.

So, even though you can’t plan or prepare for an accident…you can plan and prepare for what to do if you are injured.  Feel free to print this out and put it in your first aid kit or share it with your friends.  Be safe and have a great summer!

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