To successfully manage pain regardless of the condition/injury, we have to control inflammation (swelling). Inflammation is present in both acute (new) and long-lasting (chronic) conditions. Please note that I said “control,” not “eliminate” inflammation. Some elements of the inflammatory process are necessary for repair, however often times the process is out of control and promotes pain and restricts movement that is necessary for complete recovery and stabilization.
First, for acute or new injuries (or moderate to severe flare up of a long standing condition), we still defer to the PRICE acronym:
Protect the area from further injury
Rest the area actively (See “Active Rest” below)
Ice (following “CBAN” Cold, Burning Aching, Numbness, once you have reached 20 minutes or the area becomes numb, remove the ice)
Compress usually means applying an ace bandage, sports wrap, or brace to smaller parts, such as an ankle, knee, or wrist, but if you are feeling particularly unstable in the back or neck, short term bracing with active rest is ok.)
Elevate again refers to smaller parts that can be elevated.
Other recommendations include:
- Do not sit, stand, or lay for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. If you are sitting or laying, get up and move around. If you’ve been standing, sit down. All it takes is a few minutes of changing position to reduce local swelling or relieve muscle strain from prolonged standing.
- Apply a topical pain reliever
- If you have a sprain/strain type injury, try to move within a pain-free range for 1-2 minutes every half hour.
When injured or having a flare up of pain, active rest has been shown to reduce recovery time. Active Rest (AR) means that we want to continue to move and do all the activities we can that do not stress, strain or injure the area. However, we must use common sense: we do not want to spend hours walking at the mall even though walking tends to alleviate our back pain. The muscles around the injured area are more likely to be weak and irritated, making them more prone to fatigue. Thus, we want to move through pain free range(s) of motion for short periods of time, with intermittent rest.
Hitting a balance between PRICE and AR can significantly reduce your recovery time!