If you suffer an injury or put your body through a physically daunting experience like surgery or an intense PT session, there’s a good chance that you’ll have some localized swelling at the focal point of your care. Swelling is your body’s natural response to stress and injury, but if it’s not well controlled, it can slow the healing process. In today’s blog, we share some tips for helping to control and reduce swelling following an injury, surgery or physical therapy.
How To Limit Swelling
As we mentioned above, swelling is a natural response to injury and it’s something your body does to help protect the area from further damage. When an area is injured, the body increases fluid movement and white blood cells to the area to help remove cellular debris from the injury site. This swelling also helps to restrict further movement so that the individual is uncomfortable moving that area, which in turn helps the area rest and recover.
That being said, excessive swelling can actually make it harder for this cellular debris to be removed from the injury site, and prolonged inactivity can lead to muscle atrophy, so it’s important to work to limit swelling so that you can get back to normal activities sooner. Some ways we work with our clients to help reduce swelling after surgery or while they are recovering from an injury include:
- Icing – Icing is a simple passive treatment that helps to reduce swelling by restricting blood flow to the area. Cold packs can reduce blood vessel size and reduce excessive fluid delivery to the affected site. Icing a couple times a day for 15-30 minutes can help to reduce swelling, especially if the regimen begins within the first few days of the injury or swelling onset.
- Rest – Rest is another way to help limit swelling, and the idea here is that resting prevents further trauma and cellular damage from occurring. If you roll your ankle and then continue walking or putting pressure on it, more damage can occur, which will lead to more white blood cells and fluid being sent to the area. Limit activity for the first 24-48 hours after an injury that leads to swelling.
- Activity – It may seem weird to see rest and activity on the same list as a way to prevent swelling, but hear us out. Activity helps to get the heart pumping and blood flowing to and from an injury site. The right kind of activity can absolutely work to move fluid out of a certain area of your body, but at the same time, you want to avoid stressing the area with excess pressure. Some simple physical therapy stretches or exercises can help to decrease swelling in certain targeted areas.
- Gravity – Use gravity to your advantage when you’re dealing with an injury with swelling. Elevate the injury site above your heart, and gravity will help to pull fluid away from the injury site. Keep your arm elevated or put your foot up on a couple of pillows so that it’s above your heart and gravity helps to prevent fluid from pooling.
- Compression – Finally, don’t be surprised if your physical therapist recommends or administers some compression wraps to help control swelling. Similar to icing, compression will help to restrict blood flow and fluid pooling in an area. It’s also a good idea to have your PT apply these wraps and bandages, as they know how much pressure should be applied and where these wraps should be placed.
If you want to help control swelling after an injury or surgery, or you want a physical therapist to help address your pain, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today.