As your Santa Monica chiropractor, Dr. Dana Laridaen, D.C., I have come across too many patients that have made their condition worse simply by treating an acute injury incorrectly. When you first injure an area of your body, whether it be an ankle, a knee, your back, your neck, your shoulder, etc., what you do the first 24-48 hours are crucial in the recovery of that area. Inflammation occurs at the place of the injury and is helpful in the circulation of blood to that area for proper healing. Inflammation, however, is painful and causes swelling.
Ice should be applied to the inflamed area for 15 minutes every hour for as many hours in the day as you can. Ice should never be applied directly on the skin. You should place a very thin T-shirt or thin cloth between the ice pack and your skin in order to prevent 2nd degree burns. This should be done for the first 24-48 hours. When you take a shower, do not let the hot water hit the area of inflammation because it will just make the inflammation worse. If you cannot avoid the hot water, simply apply ice as soon as you can.
If inflammation is not addressed correctly and left uncontrolled it may lead to scarring and dysfunctional muscle groups. In this case, uncontrolled inflammation can lead to an even more severe condition of improper motion and on-going pain. After the first 48 hours, you may start to add heat when treating the area in what is called Contrast Therapy. Contrast therapy is the application of heat and ice. When you are ready for this, you want to add heat for 15 minutes followed by Ice for 15 minutes. This should be done repeatedly, however always ending with ice to counter act any additional inflammation the heat may be contributing. The purpose and effectiveness of contrast therapy can be explained by two rules in relation to your body:
1. Heat is a vasodialator- which allows the body to bring nutrient rich blood to surface areas
2. Cold is a vasoconstrictor- which drives blood to the body’s core to allow for nourishment and protection of the body
What this means in terms of treating the injured area- Heat can relax the muscle while cold reduces inflammation and inhibits pain.
We all know heat feels so much better than ice, however, heat will feel good on an inflamed area but then 2-3 hours later the pain and inflammation will be even worse and the recovery time will be even longer. When I treat a patient’s injury for the first time and they tell me they applied ice, I thank them and am so much happier because I know their injury will heal much faster. The patients that tell me they added heat right away know as soon as they see my reaction, they have done something wrong. I tell everyone unsure of what to do on an acute injury, always error on the side of ice. You can do so much more damage adding heat right away, but applying ice won’t hurt you.
Lastly, the foods we consume have an impact on inflammation: sugar will increase inflammation and foods like watermelon will help to reduce it. You can continue researching foods that fit within your diet and can help reduce inflammation when these injuries occur.
Now, the best thing to do is to contact your doctor right away especially if you have any other health conditions that may affect your healing.
Dana Laridaen, D.C. is a Chiropractor. Need a Santa Monica Chiropractor? Consider a visit to this Santa Monica Chiropractor, Dr. Dana Laridaen, D.C.at http://o2chiropracticandwellness.com/