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4 Simple Ways to Treat an Acute Injury

By Dr. Molly Casey

Tips for an Acute Injury

Knowing what action to take when an injury occurs can be tricky -- what do you do, and when do you do it? To take the right course of action, it’s important to understand the difference between acute and chronic injuries. Here we will focus on acute injuries and what to do immediately following an acute injury.

This discussion is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice, so consult your doctor based on your own situation and individual experience.

Acute Injuries

Acute injuries are results of a single traumatic event while chronic injuries arise over a period of time, often because of overuse or repeated minor dysfunctions that ultimately create a larger problem. Common acute incidents include rolling your foot off a curb and spraining the ankle, getting hit in an athletic event and dislocating a joint or tearing a muscle, and falling and fracturing a bone. These are all single events that created the injury.

These are quite different compared to a chronic injury, which is defined as pain lasting longer than six weeks,such as wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome that develops over a prolonged period of using a computer with improper wrist biomechanics, or a herniated disc as a result of poor lifting techniques after years of physical labor while at work.

Acute Injury Care

Caring for injuries properly as soon as possible after the occurrence is important. When one fails to properly care for and rehabilitate an acute injury, that body part is more prone to injuries in the future. The care after acute injuries is often divided into three categories. The day of the accident through Day 4 is referred to as the acute phase. Days 5 through 14 are categorized and called the subacute phase, and the post-acute phase is Day 15 and beyond.

So what should you do following an injury? If you feel the need to, or are in question, consult a doctor immediately. If you don’t feel the need, then proceed with these steps.

Protect the joint, muscle or injured area. This means stop the run, the game, or whatever it was that caused the injury, and take a seat -- whatever is needed to relieve stress to the injured area. Take a breath and collect yourself. The point is to give your body a moment to calibrate and adjust to what has occurred. Taking this moment allows you first to assess whether you need medical advice immediately. It also gives you a moment to assess what to do next: Protect the joint or the injured area first.

Assuming no medical advice is needed, ice the area. Get some ice or an ice pack and apply it to the injured area over a paper towel or thin small cloth. Leave the ice on for 15-20 minutes. Next, gently and slowly move the injured area through its range of motion that you can perform without pain. Make sure to note the words “gently and slowly”; do not push through any pain while doing this. Ice 3-5 times per day and perform the ranges of motion exercises; be sure to leave at least 45 minutes between each icing routine. In the days following the injury, it is best to reach out to a conservative care practitioner who deals with the body -- such as a chiropractor -- to assess the level of injury, any underlying issues that may have been a contributing factor to causing the injury, and proper rehabilitation to assure optimal healing.

Conclusion

If you suddenly find yourself in pain, you’ll need to follow these guidelines: protect, take a moment, ice on and off, and contact a conservative care practitioner who deals with the body for optimal healing and proper rehabilitation.

The importance of fully following through with the rehabilitation plan cannot be emphasized strongly enough. The programs can often be tedious and irritating. Following through with simple rehab exercises can make all the difference in ensuring the injury does not occur again.

Injuries happen. What you do right afterward matters. Follow the acute injury guidelines of taking a moment, protecting the area, icing, and contacting the proper practitioner are game changers in your health.

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