These are some of the more common questions I get as a therapist. Keep in mind this is all very general, and doesn’t apply to every injury. You should always listen to a health care professional.
Ice or Heat?
Ice is good right away, within 48 hours to help with pain and inflammation.
Heat, in most cases, is the better option after 48 hours. It can help relax tight muscles, and increase your range of motion.
More chronic conditions can use both. If you have tennis elbow you can heat before an aggravating activity and ice after.
Most people have heard the term RICE before. RICE is now replaced with “PIER” (Pressure, Ice, Elevation, Rest)
Pressure can be a tensor bandage or a pull on sleeve, anything to keep some compression, and not let swelling sit in the injured area
Ice – usually 15-20 minutes on/40-45 off. A bag of crushed ice right on the skin is usually best – as long as you check the skin every couple of minutes, to avoid frostbite.
You should feel Cold, Burning, Aching and finally it will feel Numb. Keep the ice on for long enough to get the numb feeling
Check to see that the skin returns to normal temperature before you start icing again.
Smaller/more superficial areas (like fingers) won’t need to be iced as long as bigger, deeper areas (quads)
Elevation – try to keep the injury up above your heart, obviously easier in the arms then the legs, but you can always lay on your back and put your leg up on something, or put your foot up on a chair
Rest – this ones tricky. Most injuries don’t need complete rest, they need rest from aggravating activities. If walking makes it worse, don’t walk on it, can you get on a bike or elliptical without pain? Go ahead and do that.
How soon should I go to the doctor or to a therapist?
Getting in for an initial visit within 2-3 days after your injury can be very helpful. A therapist can help you understand your injury, what phase you’re in and give you some exercises to help it heal without aggravating it further.
Some insurance companies need a doctor’s note to cover rehabilitation, they are also the ones that can order more tests if you need an x-ray, MRI, CT, etc.
How long will it take to heal?
Unfortunately, we can’t always answer this one. Sometimes people will come in with a 5 year old injury and expect to feel better when they leave.
Healing depends on:
Extent of injury
How long the injury has been going on
How well it has been managed so far
The simple rule: the longer you wait to properly manage an injury, the longer it will take to heal.