Sprains and Strains

A twist or a turn of the foot, ankle, knee, wrist, elbow or shoulder can lead to some groans, moans and a call to your friendly orthopedic surgeon for advice. While most sprains and strains are not serious injuries, they can slow you down and even put you out of commission. We at Advanced Orthopedic Specialists will be able to help determine if these sprains or strains are something to be concerned about through a comprehensive evaluation, which may include x-rays and even possibly an MRI. However, if you are concerned about what to do now, until you have your evaluation, here are some ways to help reduce pain and swelling. This may be common sense to most, but almost every orthopedic surgeon can tell you to follow the acronym R. I. C. E. which is not just a tasty side dish with shrimp, but also one of the best treatment protocols for most of our common injuries.

R- stands for Rest. An injured body must concentrate its healing properties towards the area requiring repair. If you are constantly irritating this area, your body has little chance of starting the repair process. Rest the injured area on a flat, supportive surface such as a firm pillow or a mattress. Protect the area from further stress and relax (which is the other acronym meaning).

I- stands for Ice. When there is injury to an area, inflammation occurs causing swelling and a cascade of events leading to pain and stiffness. This process can be blunted with the use of cryotherapy which is just a fancy term for cooling the area. This cooling reduces the inflammatory response and allows the body to catch up. One of the best ways to cool an area is to use frozen vegetables such as peas or corn. Make sure to cover the area with a dry wash cloth or towel over the skin. Place the frozen vegetables over the cloth and lightly wrap them with an ACE wrap or gauze, which leads us to the next step.

C- stands for compression. Remember the last time you hit your thumb with a hammer or slammed it in a door? What was the first thing you did? Was it grasping the thumb and squeezing it? Why would we ever want to squeeze and area that was just mangled by a 20 lb. door? The reason is that there are very fine nerve fibers around your joints and when they are compressed, they send an interference signal to your pain fibers and the result is a reduction in your pain response. Simple, gently-applied wraps around an injured joint compress these nerves and help reduce pain and provide a feeling of stability. Make sure not to wrap the area too tightly and remove the wrap a few times a day to check on the status of your skin.

E- Stands for elevation. When your joint is wrapped up and swollen, it is touch for the venous blood to return to your heart. The injured tissue slows the normal return of your blood. Elevating your injured extremity above your heart helps the force of gravity return this used blood back to your lungs for oxygenation and a quick return back to injured area. A quick way to elevate your extremity is lay flat on your back within your bed. Take some firm cushions off your couch (usually two standard cushions will do) and place them under your extremity. This should be about 10 cm (about 4 inches) above your heart or breast bone height. The longer you can hold this position, the better, but try at least 40-60 minutes 3-4 times per day.


Hopefully, this information will give your injured area a great head start towards recovery and recuperation, and Advanced Orthopedic Specialists will be more than happy to help you along this pathway.

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