The management of soft tissue injuries focuses on controlling the inflammatory response and minimising pain. The immediate management of soft tissue injuries is known as RICER (Rest, Ice, Compressions, Elevation, Referral) and is applied for at least the first 48hrs.
the first thing to do when managing soft tissue injuries is to stop playing the sport or doing the exercise and then rest the area injured. Rest means the area where the soft tissue injury occurred remains still. If this is an ankle then the joint should not be moved. Rest is better if the athlete does not engage in any physical activity as this allows the body to focus on healing the injured area.
Rest helps to prevent further damage to the injured area, which helps ensure the inflammatory response is not stimulated again.
When managing soft tissue injuries ice should be applied as soon as possible. Ice is often in the form of an ice pack, or a bag of ice, but can include other forms of cryotherapy. Ice should be applied over the first 48hrs. There are many methods to icing a soft tissue injury eg 20 min on 20 min off or 1 hr on 1 hr off. Generally as long as ice is consistently applied to the area with short breaks benefits will occur.
The apllication of ice to manage soft tissue injuries helps reduce the pain, decreases inflammation, and speeds up recovery. The ice itself causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of the arteries) around the area reducing inflammation, then when taken off the vessels dilate (vasodilation) allowing the blood to flow through with a momentary increase in the inflammatory response that allows waste removal and new nutrients to be delivered for repair.
Conpression is vital in the management of soft tissue injuries as it helps to reduce or control the inflammatory response and stabilises the joint (if injured). Compression involves the application of a compression bandage or garment around the injured area. The pressure applied helps force fluid away from the area reducing the inflammation at the area. The bandage can also help reduce movement, limiting reinjury, and provide support for the injured area.
In the management of soft tissue injuries it is important to get elevation correct. Often athletes put their injured ankle on a chair and think it is elevated, but elevation of the injured soft tissue must be above the heart. This means an injured elbow could be rested on the chest as a person lies down or an ankle needs to be placed on a pillow or 2 while the athlete lies flat. Elevation only works in the management of soft tissue injuries if the sight injured is above the heart.
Elevation above the heart means gravity can assist in the removal of fluid from inflammation. Gravity helps to move the blood and other fluid back towards the heart reducing or controlling the inflammatory response.
Finally, referral of the athlete to a health or medical profession should be done in the management of soft tissue injuries. This allows for proper diagnosis and rehabilitation to be applied if needed. This will help improve recovery and prevent future injury to the site. Often GPs will provide an anti inflammatory drug to help reduce pain and improve recovery.
It is important to control the inflammatory response after suffering a soft tissue injury because of left to its own devices, the inflammatory response will cause further damage to the area because too much inflammation increases the pressure around the injury which damages the nearby cells delaying recovery.