Orthopaedic surgeons are often quick to suggest surgery as the ultimate solution to an injury. I operate a little differently. I believe that unless it’s absolutely necessary, surgery should be a last resort. Holistic methods that you can try at home are a great place to start before opting for a major medical procedure.
RICE. The first treatment for almost any musculoskeletal injury is the RICE method. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. RICE is an effective way to decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation after first sustaining an injury.
The steps are fairly self-explanatory. The first step, rest, just means to stop all rigorous activity or anything that might aggravate the injury for at least a few days to a week. While staying completely sedentary isn’t the answer, overworking an injured area isn’t either!
Ice is nature’s pain reliever! By icing your injury, you help to reduce swelling and numb the pain caused by inflammation. Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables (peas work really well) wrapped in a towel or dishcloth to ice your injury. Only ice for twenty minutes at a time with twenty minute breaks in between so that you don’t risk getting frostbite.
Compression and elevation also help to keep the swelling down. You can compress an injury using an elastic bandage (like an ACE bandage), but make sure not to wrap the area so tightly that you disrupt the blood flow.
Elevating the injured area helps to keep fluids from settling, which causes swelling. Try to elevate the injury while sitting and sleeping to achieve the best results. You can use pillows, blankets, or other pieces of furniture to assist you.
Hit the Drugstore. Whether you have an injury or chronic joint pain, there are lots of products at your local pharmacy that can help you manage your pain. Joint braces are great for injuries or those suffering from arthritis. Braces and compression sleeves help with stabilization by taking pressure off the joint and allowing injuries to heal.
Topical pain relieving gels and patches are also a great way to find relief and mobility. There are warming, cooling, and combination products available. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what product they would recommend for your particular condition.
While some might not consider these a “holistic” option, NSAIDs, like Aleve or Advil, help to reduce swelling and manage pain. Talk to your doctor before taking these medications regularly to see which one is right for you.
Strengthening Exercises. As I said before, rest is necessary immediately after an injury, but strengthening exercises can help complete the healing process, as well as prevent injuries in the future. In many cases, injuries are actually caused by weak muscles that aren’t strong enough to protect your joints.
You might consider working with a physical therapist to strengthen the weaker areas of your body. Strengthening your core is also beneficial, especially for those who experience frequent back pain, which is often related to a tilted pelvis and a weak core.
Stretches. Last but certainly not least, a regular stretching routine can provide relief. Whether you choose to stretch at home or go to a stretching class, this exercise relaxes the nervous system and relieves tight or stiff areas. It also gets blood flowing to aid the healing process.
I recommend Romano Stretches to all of my patients as a way to keep the body healthy and balanced. Check out this video to learn more about this stretching routine and its benefits.