Acute swelling from soft tissue injuries are very common especially in winter sports like soccer, netball and football, or summer sports like walking down the stairs in the dark. A soft tissue injury includes an injury to any of the connecting tissue that surrounds bones (muscles, ligaments or tendons). The most common are ligament sprains, muscle strains and direct blows (aka contusions or corks).
Early management is essential for soft tissue injuries
Early management is essential for soft tissue injuries in order to decrease rehabilitation time, achieve a good outcome, and return to sport sooner. Seeking early treatment can allow for an accurate diagnosis and can focus on restricting further tissue damage.
Until you are able to get to your physiotherapist, it is best to follow the R.I.C.E.R. method:
- Rest – keep still to avoid pain and further damage for 48-72 hours
- Ice – apply for 20 minutes every two hours (when awake)
- Compression – bandage or brace to support the injury and minimise swelling
- Elevation – raise the injured area above heart level to help with reducing swelling
- Referral – make an appointment with your physiotherapist for advice and treatment
Do no H.A.R.M.
Also, you need to remember in the acute phase (72 hours) it is important to follow the do no H.A.R.M. protocol:
- Heat – increases bleeding which results in more damage in the early stage; avoid heat packs, sauna, spa, hot showers and heat creams
- Alcohol – increases the swelling and prolongs the injury
- Running – or exercise involving the affected area may stress the damage tissues and make this injury worse;
- Massage – increases the swelling and bleeding in the early stage rather than soothes
Physiotherapy Swelling Treatment Techniques:
- Ice and compression
- Movement exercises
- Hands on therapy
- Taping for swelling management (see photos)