1. Immediately after an injury, use the POLICE principle
At this stage, you want to avoid further damage, so rest the affected area or limb to protect further damage but this doesn’t mean complete immobilisation. Interspersing periods of rest with time doing regular daily activities provides the injured area with the movement it requires to aid recovery.
All tissue requires some exposure to physical movement to stimulate the healing process. It’s important not to overdo it, however, as you could end up causing further pain and swelling.
Apply ice – try frozen peas or an cold pack. Ice reduces swelling and eases pain. Avoid placing ice directly on your skin or over an area where the skin is damaged. Always shield the skin with a wet towel to prevent burns.
Apply compression, such as supports or bracing. Compression can help swelling and pain – just make sure it’s not too tight.
Elevate the compressed area: this helps it to rest and reduces swelling. Take regular rest breaks to elevate the injury on cushions or a chair.
Note: If you can’t put any weight on the affected limb, or experience any of the following, get your injury checked with a professional such as a physio or GP to rule out anything more serious. This is especially important for small children and older people:
- Pain that comes on at night and keeps you awake
- Pain that's caused by symptoms such as night sweats or lumps
- Pain that lingers for a week or more.
2. Educate yourself
When you’re back on your feet and ready to exercise again, don’t proceed until you understand what went wrong last time.
3. Don’t rush
Use a trained PT or physiotherapist to perfect your technique, re-familiarise yourself with the exercise equipment, hone your fitness and create a balanced routine that makes allowances for your injury.
Likewise, consult a trained PT or physiotherapist before making drastic changes. You’ll do better in the long run if you build up gradually under supervision rather than rushing ahead alone.
4. Don’t forget the basics
It’s understandable to want to hit the gym running, but don’t forget to warm up and cool down properly during each exercise session and listen to your body during workouts. Rest when muscles are fatigued to avoid overuse.
5. Stay positive
Having an injury can feel like a setback, but be reassured, the body has a fantastic ability to heal itself. Most injuries are easily treatable, short term and unlikely to have long term repercussions.
Last updated Thursday 14 September 2023
First published on Friday 13 September 2019