First of all, let’s make sure you didn’t do something really serious. Go read my blog ‘Is This Serious or Not?’ to give you a better idea if you need immediate medical attention.
Fortunately, only a small percentage of injuries require the services of an Orthopedic Surgeon, and most injuries can be treated by you, with a little common sense. The classic recommendation of R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for an injury has stood the test of time, and with just a little tweaking, can generally be used to treat most acute Orthopedic injuries.
Rest obviously involves staying off of an injured foot, ankle, knee or hip, or not using an injured upper extremity. “Playing though” an injury is, quite frankly, foolish, and there is no scientific basis for continuing to play hurt. Let your body do what it does best; heal. No pain, no gain? I don’t think so.
Ice can be really helpful. When you injure yourself, there is often injury to the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons) and these tissues will bleed and cause
swelling, which can sometimes be impressive. Swelling hurts! In addition, chronic injuries to tissues will cause inflammation, which may also produce swelling. Ice will help to reduce the swelling. Do not ice continually; that runs the very real risk of frostbite or a burn injury to your skin. A general rule of thumb is 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off.Compression of an injured limb or body part will also help to reduce swelling more rapidly. An Ace wrap will give uniform compression, but be careful not to wrap it on too tight. If you get a lot of swelling on either side of the Ace wrap, loosen it.
Elevation is also critical in reducing painful swelling, and getting your body to heal as quickly as possible. Elevation means getting the injured body part above the level of your heart; the higher the better. Sitting with your leg on a chair is not elevated; you want that ankle above the level of your heart. Similarly, keeping your swollen injured wrist in a sling doesn’t do the trick either. Use pillows, or whatever it takes, but elevate!
NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) are a class of medication that is both an analgesic (pain reliever) and an anti-inflammatory. There are lots of them out there; a few are available over the counter. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and Naproxyn (Aleve). They do have side effects, such as increased risk of ulcers and interfering with blood clotting, so be aware.
If you continue to improve, you can gradually return to your regular activities. If you are not getting steadily better, or if your symptoms worsen, then the next step is to see your doctor.
Written By: Dr. Noah Weiss M.D.