Dr Jessica Sammut
6 Tips for Acute Injury Management
Updated: Nov 1, 2018
Did you know there is a difference between acute and chronic pain? You can go back over and read my blog here.
Acute pain typically refers to an injury that lasts less than 3 to 6 months. More specifically, each structure in your body (muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments etc) have an approximate, expected healing time. It’s something that can’t be rushed, no matter how compliant you are. If you are within this time frame, we are dealing with an acute injury, because it is still fresh, and we won’t have expected it to be fully healed yet! This has no bearing on the severity of pain because everyone is different.
So to give you an example – say you tore your hamstring (ouch), I would be expecting that muscle to take about six weeks to heal itself.
Now, in that instance, we can still treat you, rehab the area, keep you moving, you MAY not even have to stop all your exercise - but if you come to me in 3 or 4 weeks and are sad that it isn’t 100%, we wouldn’t be too worried, because we wouldn’t have expected that muscle to have repaired that quickly – so we just continue to treat and rehabilitate it necessary.
We have to understand that any pain in this time frame, is your body’s way of guarding up and protecting itself – so you have to listen to this. However, should you find yourself in an acute pain predicament, here are six simple tools for the toolbox, to try to get you by until treatment:
1: Drinking plenty of water, even more than usual
Drinking water allows the body to get hydrated, and this allows the circulatory system function easier by moving blood to the newly treated area more sufficiently, supplying it with oxygen and nutrients.
When you have acute pain, this is often accompanied by swelling and inflammation, which will restrict blood flow, so the more you can support your body through this, the better. A few glasses of water is an easy way to help yourself out.
2: Sleep with a pillow between your knees
Trying sleeping with a pillow under your knees if you’re lying on your back, or between your knees, if you’re lying on your side. This will take the tension off the hamstrings and nerves that run down the back of your leg. It will also make it more difficult for you to roll around while you sleep, and you’ll feel a bit more secure in bed.
3: Ice or heat??
Icing 15 minutes on 15 minutes off – the 15 off can be heat, or you can ice on, ice off, and ice on, and then have a hot shower. Most people will try heat first, which you can do, however as a general rule, if you decide the heat feels good, then heat is your answer. If it doesn’t feel like much is happening, try ice – and vice versa. Cooling will feel great when it’s needed and will continue to do so until it is no longer required.
4: Roll up towel for lumbar support
A rolled-up towel is a great home-made solution for a lumbar support, as it will mould to the shape of your spine, and allow the rest of your body to relax, and take the weight from your low back. You can use this in a chair, on the couch, and even have it with you in the car.
5: Bum squeezes
As easy as it sounds. Literarily squeezing your bum cheeks together, you’ll feel the muscle tense up and harden. This simple exercise will keep your glutes firing as best they can while you’re in pain, and good pelvic and glute stability will help support your back while you’re in pain.
6: Keep mobile
Don’t over-do it, but don’t just plant yourself.
It’s essential to not fall into the trap of planting yourself in bed and not moving for a week. Yes – a bad facet sprain makes it difficult to get up, and cough, and bend – but it’ll only get worse if you refuse to move. Don’t overdo it though, because when you are in the acute pain phase, you can do more damage to the area, so keep it in a comfortable zone.