You’ve no doubt heard about the R.I.C.E method as an effective way of dealing with a sports injury in the hours immediately after it has occurred: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. But have you heard of the H.A.R.M method? The team at Cairnhill Physio believes this is something to be avoided. The common sports injuries a physio treats are often made worse because of H.A.R.M., so what is it and why should you be so wary of it?
We all know that what you do straight after suffering a sporting injury will affect the way you heal in the future. There are a number of things you should do – R.I.C.E being one of them. But within the first 48 to 72 hours following an injury, you should do no H.A.R.M. – Heat, Alcohol, Return to Activity, Massage.
Heat: Heat should never be applied to affected soft tissues within 48 to 72 hours of sustaining a sports injury. When this happens, it has the effect of increasing blood flow to the affected area within the soft tissues, which means there’s a greater chance of further bruising or swelling.
Alcohol: Alcohol should be off the menu at this time as it can cause a significant widening of blood vessels, which is known as vasodilation. When vasodilation occurs it can lead to further bleeding and swelling around soft tissue injuries.
Return to Activity: Return to activity is also something to be avoided in those first crucial hours because it will allow the body to begin the healing process. If the injury isn’t too bad, we can possibly diagnose when you might be able to return to sporting activity but that is always dependent on factors like your body’s unique healing capabilities, age, previous injuries, or how well you adhere to your recovery programme.
Massage: Massage might seem like a good idea but it is best left alone for up to 72 hours (or longer in some cases), as this can increase blood flow to the injury site and cause even more pain and swelling.
H.A.R.M. is something you should never do. But what you should ALWAYS do is contact us following a sports injury. In those first hours after it has occurred, we can give you advice on what to do in the immediate aftermath. By getting the right advice from the start, you’ll give yourself a big headstart in the recovery process.