Swelling is not cool…but it should be iced

So you went and injured yourself…is it from the pick-up basketball game the night before or a marathon concert of Guitar Hero? Either way you are in pain and need to know what to do. That’s where I come in.
 
If you know specifically what happened and/or how it happened, it’s always helpful. But for those of you who don’t have any idea, don’t worry…we can help you too. Here are some things to note: 
 
1. Does it look deformed? If your foot is facing the opposite direction of what it is supposed to, leave it the way it is, call 911 and wait for the ambulance. If it’s just a dislocated finger, an ambulance probably isn’t necessary. General rule of thumb is to wait for a medical professional to put the joint back into place. It’s never a good idea to do it yourself because you run the risk of more damage. If you can see the bone sticking out of your leg/arm because it’s broken through the skin, also call 911. Excessive swelling can also make an area looked deformed but look closely because a dislocation or severe fracture should be quite obvious.
 
2. Is it swollen? Swelling always means something is going on inside. Don’t freak out because your right knee is a centimeter bigger than your left. The swelling you need to worry about is when one knee (or ankle, or wrist, or…) is obviously, noticeably larger than the other one.
 
3. Can you move it? I don’t mean it’s physically possible for you to move a fraction of an inch but you are in excruciating pain the whole time. In this case if you can move it a little but it hurts, that’s a positive sign. If you can’t move it at all whether it’s because of pain or not…GO TO A DOCTOR!
 
Now we’ve narrowed it down a bit so what do you do? The acronym you need to know is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest seems like commonsense but some people ignore this part. In some cases just taking a few days to rest will do more good than anything else you can do. Ice is always a good choice. There are very few injuries that shouldn’t be iced. If you are suffering from frostbite…don’t take this advice. Otherwise, ice should be your best friend. Compression is really only necessary if there is swelling but it’s not going to hurt either. Remember compression that is TOO TIGHT could cause further injury or delay healing. I usually recommend keeping the ace wrap on at all times except when showering, icing, or sleeping. And finally elevation…also mainly important when there is swelling involved. If there isn’t any swelling or it’s particularly difficult to elevate (like your back), than it’s not necessary. Elevating an injury means above the heart, not just a foot off the floor.
 
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve) will help with the pain but will also help with any inflammation or swelling that you may have. I don’t think overdosing on meds is particularly good advice but if you have swelling, even taking 2 pills (200 mg per pill = 400mg total) 3 times a day for a few days will help with that inflammation.
 
With any injury severity is the key. If you aren’t sure or you try these things for a couple days and it’s not getting better or it gets worse, go see a doctor. It’s probably not necessary to go to a doctor and pay a $50 co-pay for a minor ankle sprain that you can walk on but with a slight limp. Hopefully these tips will help save you some $$$!
 
~ Missync MS, ATC, LAT ~