When you have pain it is natural to want to rest in order to heal. In fact, that’s often the first piece of advice someone will give you. But inactivity may actually do more harm than good.
“Motion is the Lotion.” Something you will frequently hear from orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists, like Step & Spine Physical Therapy founder, Barrett Ford, is that movement is essential to healing. “Movement increases the lubricating fluid that transports nutrients throughout the body to promote tissue healing,” said Barrett.
Have you ever noticed that after an injury you have limited range of motion? This is partly due to inflammation in the affected area, which is a natural reaction to injury. Have you heard of RICE for acute pain or injuries? RICE is a great acronym to use, but use it correctly. Here’s what we mean:
REST. Movement will help your joints feel better and will improve range of motion. But you have to be smart about the kind of movement in which you do. If you have an injury, it is important to protect the area that is injured. Movement is good and can increase your rate of healing, but the movement you do should not cause pain. That said, if your physical therapist applies some manual hands-on therapy treatments to address inflammation, it may hurt a little. But the pain is well worth the dramatic positive impact it can have on speeding up your recovery.
Rest doesn’t mean sit on the couch and watch television all day (although that may sound wonderful). Rest means resting the injured area to not promote further injury. Exercise should continue, but depending on your injury, may need to be modified. For example, if you are experiencing IT band issues and can’t run, go for walks instead or try low impact swimming.
ICE. The first 72 hours after an injury, ice the affected area for no more than 20 minutes at a time. After 72 hours, heat should be applied, if needed, for relieving stiffness and promoting mobility.
COMPRESSION. Depending on the injury, a bandage, compression sleeve or support brace may be helpful in reducing swelling. Swelling is your body’s version of immobilizing an injured area. You can use the support listed above to assist your body and reduce the swelling to promote healing.
ELEVATION. Raising the injured body part can help reduce swelling. If you have a leg injury, elevate the leg so it is above the hip.
If you have pain, don’t sit around and wait for the pain to go away because it may actually get worse with inactivity. Instead, get up and get moving. Find another way to stay active while resting the injured body part. If you are concerned about what you can do to safely move, schedule an evaluation with a physical therapist who can provide recommended exercises to keep you active while you heal.