Helping the recovery process

Things that should be avoided immediately following a sports injury (typically for three days) are summarised by the acronym HARM:

Heat – for example, hot baths, saunas or heat packs.
Alcohol – drinking alcohol can increase bleeding and swelling, and slow down healing.
Running – or any other form of exercise which could cause further injury.
Massage – which may increase bleeding and swelling

On the other hand, the measures that you should consider taking can be remembered by another acronym PRICE:

Protection – Ensure that the injured part of the body is protected from further injury.

Try to avoid any situations where you put further strain on the painful area. If you have sprained your ankle, for example, wear a shoe that will give the ankle more support.

Some injuries will benefit from more support such as a brace or rigid strapping tape. Contact a doctor or a sports injury specialist if you are uncertain what is best for you.

Rest – Allow the injury time to heal by giving the joint or muscle some rest. Do not try and be brave and play through injuries, it may cause further damage and the injury will take longer to get better.

Ice – Rather than applying any heat to the area, ice is preferred for the initial two or three days post-injury.

Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes wrapped in a damp towel every two to three hours for the first two to three days to reduce the inflammation. Ice can also help to reduce pain and swelling in soft tissue injuries, such as ligament sprains, muscle tears or bruising. Try not to let it touch your skin directly, because it could cause a burn. Do not go to bed with an ice pack; you do not want to apply the ice for the whole night!

Compression – If it is possible to apply a compressive bandage or elastic support to the injury, it will help to control swelling and bleeding in the first few days.

In most cases, the bandage or support will also help to support the injury as new scar tissue is formed. This should help to reduce your pain. An elastic bandage or elasticated tubular bandages are generally available from pharmacies.

Take care not to wrap bandages around the affected area too tightly or they may restrict blood flow. Remember to remove the bandage before going to bed.

Elevation – If applicable, keep the injured area raised and supported (such as on a pillow) to help reduce swelling.

If your leg is injured, avoid having long periods of time where your leg is not raised. If having your leg elevated causes more pain, however, simply aim to keep it comfortable.

Treating strains, sprains and other sports injuries

For mild strains, sprains and bruising injuries, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often found to be effective. They help relieve pain and may limit inflammation and swelling too. For example, you can buy Nurofen at pharmacies. Nurofen contains ibuprofen and is available in several forms.

Nurofen Joint & Back Pain Relief 5% Gel and Nurofen Joint & Back Pain Relief Maximum Strength 10% Gel formulations are topical preparations that are absorbed into the skin to get to work where needed to offer back pain relief, ease a strained calf muscle or other similar sports injury.

In the case of serious injury, particularly to the head or spine, seek immediate medical advice straight away. You should also consider visiting your doctor if you experience severe pain, swelling, numbness, or cannot bear weight on a limb. If you are worried your symptoms are too severe or you think you may have broken or dislocated a joint, then see a doctor immediately

Most sports injuries are minor and recovery is usually quite fast. However, if you are ever in any doubt, it's best not to simply hope you are doing the right thing. Always take advice from someone who knows.

Here we will look at what you do to recover quicker and how to treat your injury.

  • 1

    Heat – for example, hot baths, saunas or heat packs.

  • 2

    Alcohol – drinking alcohol can increase bleeding and swelling, and slow down healing.

  • 3

    Running – or any other form of exercise which could cause further injury.

  • 4

    Massage – which may increase bleeding and swelling