If you have an injured ligament or pulled muscle or have ever been held back by a strain or a sprain – you NEED to know this.
This is what can literally halve your recovery time.
Recommendations for acute injury management has changed over the last ten years and sometimes it can take a while for the latest updates to dribble down to everyone. So, in light of that, we thought we would give you a simple, easy to follow guide and explanation that will help you recover from a pulled muscle super fast.
RICE, PRICE or POLICE?
RICE is still the most well-known acronym for looking after pulled muscles and stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. It still works ok but was some time ago replaced by PRICE which ads in Protection to the mix.
Now for the last few years, we have had that replaced with POLICE and it makes total sense. It was found that far too many injuries were being treated passively with the R component of RICE and PRICE which lead to stiffness and weakness developing after pulled muscles or sprains. Replacing Rest with Optimal Loading – optimal for your injury – has made a huge difference.
See below for a summary poster about P.O.L.I.C.E and check out below that for a more detailed explanation:
A short period of unloading is required for pulled muscles and ligaments to heal well. It is effectively allowing it a chance to lay down a scab.
This is not full rest though, it just means avoiding aggressive movements and exercise that can affect initial healing and worsen the injury – and listen to your body.
This means you should load the injured tissue, whether it be a pulled muscle or twisted ankle, within reason and gradually increase. This is effectively encouraging the use of a rehab program where you have exercises that specifically load the injured area in a controlled and incremental way.
Tissue heals according to the load that is put through it. Loading it the right may mean it heals well and heals strong.
Ice helps decrease pain and blood flow to the injured area, assisting in being above to load optimally. Ideal usage is 10-20 minutes every two hours.
This is potentially more beneficial that ice.
Compression gives support to the injured muscle – such as a pulled calf muscle – and helps enhance proprioception. The compression also has the well-known benefit of helping decrease swelling around the injured area.
Ensure the compression is not so tight that it causes discomfort or messes with your blood flow.
Elevation uses the power of gravity to help the interstitial fluid – which is the fluid that leaks out of blood vessels after injury and causes swelling – go back to the heart. It helps speed up the swelling being taken away in the lymphatic vessels, which are like the gutter system of the body
A comment on ICE
There is some contention as to whether ICE and particularly the ice aspect of that should be included in the guidelines. There is, however, now more positives than negatives to using ice so it has been retained for now.(1)