From time to time everyone has had an injury. Practicing physical therapy and therapeutic massage for over 20 years, I have seen my share. Most people know about RICE which is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation for non serious injury. RICE really is the best thing for an injured limb and should be done for a day or two as needed. But what do you do after that?
To decrease the consequences of an injury, I recommend to move gently and frequently. Don’t stress or push your self, stay within the available range of motion. But don’t baby yourself either. Sitting on the couch or pampering yourself too much can make the injury worse. Add in small movements throughout the day after you have used the RICE method. (This doesn’t apply to broken or torn injuries. If you have any doubt always consult a doctor).
Let’s say you have a back injury. You pulled your back out lifting up a heavy box or from an unexpected but loving jump into your arms from a child. First use RICE techniques to decreasing inflammation, and keep your back still for a day or so. Rest on your back with a pillow under knees, or on your side with a pillow between your knees to support the injury. However, if you lay there for too long you may have a difficult time getting up.
If the injury is mild and you don’t need to go to the doctor, consider the following. Most people think resting is lying down on a comfy couch for days or weeks at a time. Resting is relative. For a back problem this is one of the worst things you could do. The slouchy couch poses a positional challenge at best, and creating more weakness and pain at worst. With back injuries in particular you should not be still too long, frequent movement within your tolerance is crucial to proper healing. Unless you are unable, getting up and walking around every hour or two for 5-10 min will actually loosen things up. as your muscles will have tightened up. Plus for every week in bed you will lose 1 muscle strength grade!
Because we normally sit for long periods of time we think it is normal to do so. Spines in particular do not like it much especially injured ones. Often it is not until the person gets up that they feel pain or consequence of sitting. Unfortunately people take this wrong, thinking that it is the getting up that is the problem and they sit back down and stay there. In reality the sitting is the problem. This mismanagement of your back increases risk for delayed healing, disability and increase incidence of re-injury.
Bottom line, just because your injured doesn’t mean you need to stay down. You need to be proactive in your movement and care of your body! If your pain lasts more than a week, get some help. Sometimes you just need a good massage. Other times you need more skill, like a PT, a gentle chiropractor, or your friendly neighborhood Aston-Kinetics practitioner: firstname.lastname@example.org.