The PRICE is Right - Alliance Integrative Medicine

The PRICE is Right

The combination of warmer weather, plenty of sunshine and limited vacation time causes many of us to become “weekend warriors.” This “get it in” or “get it done while you can” mindset with five days of sitting at a desk in between is often the reason why many of us end up with strains, sprains or even worse during the summer months. If an injury does occur during your time of play this season, remembering the acronym PRICE may help improve your chances of a quick recovery.

P is for Protection

After an acute injury,our first impulse is usually to move or put weight on the troubled joint/tissue in order to personally assess our need for medical assistance. Please do your best to fight this inclination as it may result in more harm to the damaged area. Instead, try to immediately protect the area by limiting its mobility until you are able to obtain reassurance from a physician that it is okay to move. Items easily purchased at any drug store such as braces, elastic bandages, crutches, slings, or, in the case of an emergency, even clothing wrapped around the affected area can all be used effectively to increase protection.

R is for Rest

Once your physician has informed you that movement within the injured area is okay, please remember that this is not time to go out and run a marathon. Resting the body after an acute injury and allowing the body time to focus on healing is very important.

This is not to say you should sit on the couch and do nothing. The “okay” order from your physician should be seen as an invitation to increase your level of movement over what you have done since the injury was suffered. Although sustained rest early is important to get the healing process underway and prevent further injury, too much rest may eventually lead to undesired scarring or adhesions. This occurs during the healing process as the body tries to over-fortify damaged area because it perceives the tissue as having been too weak before the injury occurred. Movement is important during this remodeling phase of the healing process to ensure that your body doesn’t heal in a manner that will limit your ability to move in the future.

I is for Ice

We heal through the process of inflammation. After a trauma, the body swells the damaged tissues in order to get the nutrients and healing properties it needs to repair the area quickly. Unfortunately, too much of this innate reaction may cause us a great deal of pain, which will inhibit our ability to move and thereby increase our chances of scarring or adhesions.

After an acute injury, many of us know to quickly put ice on affect area to reduce inflammation, but the application of this technique is often misunderstood and, if not done properly, may result in wasted time or even more damage. When done correctly, the resulting benefits of this treatment outweigh the temporary discomfort it may cause.

An acronym within an acronym: During the proper application of an ice treatment, you should experience all of the sensations as described by the acronym CBAN: Cold, Burn, Ache and Numb.

Unfortunately, many people stop ice treatments right after the sensation of cold moves into the burn phase because they do not like the pain. When the body senses the cold,it initially rushes blood to the area to warm it. The blood then seeps into the affected tissue and increases inflammation. Stopping at this stage, with increased inflammation in the area, can be very detrimental to the healing process.

If you start using ice, you must continue until the affected area enters the last stage, numbing, at which point blood vessels constrict,thereby decreasing the inflammation of the affected area. Once numbness is achieved, the treatment should be discontinued. The length of time it takes for numbing to develop depends on the thickness of the injured tissue (e.g. while hand or finger injuries may only take six to eight minutes to become numb, thicker tissues like the thigh may take up to 20 minutes).

Ice should never be directly applied to the skin as to avoid damaging the skin itself. Use a piece of fabric to buffer the skin from the ice, but make sure it is thin enough to be able to perceive the ice as cold.

C is for Compression and E is for Elevation

Both compression and elevation should be done to decrease the pooling of blood, which increases inflammation, in the affected area. Using elastic bandages such as ACE™ Bandages or braces and keeping the affected area elevated to the level of your heart will help you reduce your inflammation.

We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that you won’t need to use the acronym PRICE this summer season. Remember that moderate daily exercise, proper nutrition and adequate hydration will also help keep you healthy this summer season. Have fun and play well!

By Lisa Gallagher, N.D.
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