Episode 11 – how to look after soft tissue injuries

 

Nobody likes an injury, let alone a soft tissue injury.

 

If you get one, you want to bounce back as quick as possible. In this article, let’s discuss how to look after soft tissue injuries. These steps are generally useful to follow until medical or qualified health professionals arrive to assist you. Once they arrive, listen to their advice.

 

First up, what’s a soft tissue injury?

Soft tissue injuries are minor injuries such as minor sprains, strains, bumps and bruises. These are generally mild in nature but need to be given the appropriate attention they require. Suspected fractures and compound injuries (where you see bone or tendons protruding the skin), lacerations, scratches, cuts and other injuries will require medical help and fast. In these cases head to the nearest hospital emergency room for medical treatment. If you can’t move the injured person – call for an ambulance.

If you’d like to know more about first aid or advanced first aid, I’d suggest you apply for a first aid course where you’ll learn how to address these topics appropriately.

 

What is RICER?

R.I.C.E.R. stands for the following:

  • Rest – stop all activities immediately
  • Ice – ice the area and / or surrounding area
  • Compression – apply a compression bandage or compression wear
  • Elevation – keep the injured part above the heart as much as possible
  • Referral – to a doctor / medical specialist

Let’s go through these in a bit more detail.

 

Rest

Soft tissue injuries (such as sprains and strains) happen in accidents, falls or even during sports.

When these injuries occur there is usually internal bleeding at the injury area due to the rupturing of blood vessels. If you or the person you are taking care of are injured you’ll know about it because they will tell you verbally, and even non-verbally in their body language. They might scream, cry, or they might simply point, hold or nurse their injury. If an injury has just occurred, it’s important to stop moving. When I say stop moving, I mean stop or restrict unnecessary movement of the whole body (ideally) and immobilise the injured part of the body. This will reduce blood flow around the body and lessen damage at the injured site. This is also a good time to call for medical help.

 

Ice

Ice on or near the injured site to reduce pain and help limit swelling in the area. A general guide to follow is the 20 minutes on for every two hour period (during waking hours) over the course of 48-72 hours but listen to the medical professional for specifics.

Some types of ice applications:

  • Cold pack in a dampened cloth
  • Ice immersion and cold water in a bucket
  • Cooling sprays (temporary only)

 

Some tips on ice packs

It’s important to have a layer of cloth or plastic between your skin and the ice to help prevent any further injury such as ice burn.

 

Want to know how to further manage a soft tissue injury? Read on below to find out how to use compression, elevation and referral?

 

 

Compression

Apply a compression bandage to the injured site to keep the injured site from over-swelling.

The best compression bandage is the elastic interlaced material, which has springiness to it. If you don’t have that, use compression wear, plastic kitchen wrap or some other suitable material to help with compression. Also, chat with the injured person to make sure it’s not too tight and not too loose. Some signs the bandage may be too tight include: numbness, tingling or skin colour becoming pale or blue. If you see any of these symptoms or signs, remove the compression and try again.

 

Elevation

Keep the injured site elevated. This means keeping the limb above heart level to minimize excess blood flow to the area. It may even reduce pain in the area as well. Some examples of keeping the site elevated include, putting your leg on a chair, pillow or stool. If it’s your arm, it might mean using a sling.

 

Referral

If you made the call for medical help at the beginning, the medical professionals should be nearby. Let them know what happened (see BONUS tip below) and then listen to their advice. Otherwise, visit a doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible for professional assessment.

 

BONUS: knowledge is power!

These questions will allow you to build a picture of the incident. I’m pretty sure your health professional will ask you these questions, but it is important you understand the answers as well. Accurate answers will help develop a personalised program for recovery.

  • What exactly happened?
  • How did the injury occur?
  • Why might the accident have happened?
  • When did it occur and where exactly was the location of the injury?
  • Pain scale 0-10 at three key points – 1/ upon injury 2/ after R.I.C.E.R. 3/ after taking pain relief medication (if applicable)
  • What factors relieve you of pain?
  • What factors aggravate your pain?
  • Was it preventable? If so, how could the injury possibly be prevented?

 

Summary

These are some tips on how to manage soft tissue injury. Just again, here’s the steps to R.I.C.E.R.

  • Rest – stop all activities immediately
  • Ice – ice the area and / or surrounding area
  • Compression – apply a compression bandage or compression wear
  • Elevation – keep the injured part above the heart as much as possible
  • Referral – to a doctor / medical specialist

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Bibliography

  • Chek, P. (2009) How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!
  • Myers, T. (2009) Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists (2nd Ed.). Churchill Livingstone
  • Sherwood, L.(2004) Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems (5th Ed.) Thomson, Brooks/Cole
  • Erhman, J. Gordon, P. Visich, P. Keteyian, S. (2003) Clinical Exercise Physiology. Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
  • https://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/pip_ricer.html.Accessed 23 March 2016
  • https://www.elastoplast.com.au/strapping-and-injuries/injury-management-and-prevention/ricer. Accessed 23 March 2016
  • https://www.tmphysio.com/resources/ricer-for-soft-tissue-injuries/ .Accessed 23 March 2016
  • https://acceleratephysio.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/RICED.pdf. Accessed 23 March 2016
  • https://www.topendsports.com/medicine/noharm.htmhttps://www.physioadvisor.com.au/7672750/rice-rest-ice-compression-elevation-injury.htm. Accessed 23 March 2016

Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness.

Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness. International Athlete, Elite Performance Manager for the Philippine Volcanoes rugby teams, qualified Dietitian / Nutritionist and qualified educator. Chris Everingham combines more than 10 years of experience and education together to deliver the best strategies to grow your mindset, rewire your habits and transform your life.

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