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Is it time to call the POLICE on RICE?

In this debut post from Ed Grosser, he shares with us the latest thinking in acute muscle strains that we all need to know:

Muscle strain 101

Muscles strains are a common injury that can occur to anyone.

From Sunday league soccer players, parents chasing kids, or Adelaide Crows’ hamstrings (Go The Power).

(Editor’s note: we are a bipartisan physiotherapy practice, but there are definitely factions within)

People will commonly describe a sudden movement or over-stretching with the immediate onset of pain.

Depending on the severity and location of the injury you may experience:

  1. Immediate pain and tenderness in the muscle – fibres within the muscle may be overstretched or torn which gives your nervous system with lots of danger input
  2. Pain when trying to use the muscle – When a muscle works, the fibres transmit load – if some of those fibres are torn or stretched it’s going to be painful!
  3. Pain on stretching the injured muscle – you are stretching already overstretched tissue.
  4. Bruising at or below the injury site – muscle tissue has a good blood supply which means when it is torn it can bleed and a bruise may appear.

So why is RICE no good?

The acronym R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression and elevation) has been really popular for the management of acute muscle strains.

It has now been superseded by new research that shows moving a muscle (mechanical loading) is beneficial for the healing process, if done correctly.

The research says call the P.O.L.I.C.E.

Protection: a brief period of reduced movement and activity is often beneficial to ensure no further injury.

Optimal Loading: early and safe loading of the injured tissue can aid in the healing process and also reduce the risk of secondary factors such as muscle inhibition or muscle wasting.

Ice: applying an ice pack to the injured area for 10-15minutes once per hour can assist to reduce pain, swelling and bruising for the first 24-72hrs.

Compression: a compression bandage for the first 1-3 days may be useful do reduce swelling at the injury site.

Elevation: elevation of the injured muscle in the initial phase will also assist with swelling management.

Now that was have called the P.O.L.I.C.E, we need to do no H.A.R.M.

Heat: increasing the temperature of the muscle will bring more blood to the area which will cause further bleeding and initially slow the healing process.

Alcohol: alcohol is an anti-coagulant which will make it harder for your body to stop the injured muscle bleeding and will slow the healing process.

Running or intense activity: this is the other end of ‘Optimal Loading’. Your muscle is injured and not able to tolerate heavy loads as well. If it is loaded too much it may cause unnecessary pain and even make your injury worse.

Massage: like applying heat, massage can promote blood flow and may also directly damage healing tissues. Massage to non-injured tissue may be of benefit in the initial phase depending on the presentation.

Muscle strains vary greatly in severity and while your body will heal naturally it is always best to have your physiotherapist assess your presentation.

They will be able to:

a) Determine if it is a muscle strain and if further medical imaging is required

b) Provide you with further information on the severity, location and grade of muscle strain

c) Ensure you are optimally loading your muscle throughout your rehabilitation stage so you can return to your favourite activities as soon as possible

d) Provide you with further education, exercises or advice to reduce the risk or the same injury occurring into the future.

If you, a friend or a loved one sustain a muscle strain, call the P.O.L.I.C.E and do no H.A.R.M.

Speak with a physio to find out more about what we do on 8356 1000, or organise a free 15 minute preassessment!

You can also book a time via the online bookings button at the top of the page.

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About the author

Russell Mackenzie
Russell Mackenzie
Russell is a physiotherapist and clinic owner in Adelaide, South Australia. He received his physiotherapy degree from UniSA in 1994, and has since also become a Credentialed McKenzie Therapist. Russell is the co-owner of Adelaide West Physio + Pilates and more recently, Adelaide West Headache Clinic, which was formed after becoming a Watson Headache Certified Practitioner to show his dedication and passion for headache and migraine treatment. Russell also aims to spread the word about the role of physiotherapy and non-surgical methods of helping persistent pain, low back pain and other conditions. Learn more about Russell on our About Us page.
Russell Mackenzie

Russell Mackenzie

Russell is a physiotherapist and clinic owner in Adelaide, South Australia. He received his physiotherapy degree from UniSA in 1994, and has since also become a Credentialed McKenzie Therapist. Russell is the co-owner of Adelaide West Physio + Pilates and more recently, Adelaide West Headache Clinic, which was formed after becoming a Watson Headache Certified Practitioner to show his dedication and passion for headache and migraine treatment. Russell also aims to spread the word about the role of physiotherapy and non-surgical methods of helping persistent pain, low back pain and other conditions. Learn more about Russell on our About Us page.
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