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  • Writer's pictureSachin Bhat

TLC for Your Muscles: A Guide to Acute Muscle Injury Management

Muscle injuries are a common part of life, whether from sports, accidents, or everyday activities. The first 72 hours following a muscle injury are crucial for a successful recovery. In this post, we'll explore how a physiotherapist might guide you through this period, using simple terms and easy-to-follow steps, including the essential POLICE and no HARM acronym.

The POLICE acronym:

●        Protection: Keep the injured area safe with slings, braces, or crutches, depending on the severity. Prevent any further injury from occurring

●        Optimal Loading: Gradually ease into movement to stimulate healing without causing harm. This should be guided by your physiotherapist, to determine whether you are ready to start loading or not

●        Ice: Apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes every 1-2 hours during the first 48 hours to reduce swelling and ease pain. This would only be useful for pain management purposes, and is not a necessity in early management.

●        Compression: Use bandages or wraps to minimize swelling and provide support. This helps to manage blood flow and prevent further swelling

●        Elevation: Raise the injured limb above heart level when possible to aid in reducing swelling. This may also be helpful in reducing pain.

Remember NO HARM:

●        No Heat: Skip hot packs early on as they may increase swelling by increasing blood flow

●        No Alcohol: Lay off the drinks initially as alcohol can increase blood flow, which can make swelling worse

●        No Running: Take it easy; too much movement can make things worse. This goes hand in hand with the Protect principle.

●        No Massage: Hold off on deep tissue massages in the first 72 hours; promoting blood flow can make swelling worse, and mobilising injured tissues with massage may lead to secondary complications such as myositis ossificans

Other things that may also be helpful include:

●        Medication such as panadol may be used to manage pain. Anti-inflammatories should not be used early on as this can reduce the impact of the initial healing from the body, and lead to longer term impairments as well.

●        Move as you are able to: depending on the severity of your injury, some movement may be helpful

In the first 72 hours after a muscle injury, giving your muscles some tender loving care with the POLICE and no HARM approach makes a big difference. Physiotherapists act as your guides to help you ensure you are able to safely navigate the initial stage of muscle injuries. Listen to your body, follow the advice, and you'll be back in action sooner than you think. Always chat with your healthcare expert for advice tailored just for you.

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