Avoid HARM for acute injuries (TOP TIPS)
25 January 2016
After injuring yourself it can be difficult to know what to do. Do you use, ice or heat? Rest or movement? Elevation or massage? The asnwers to these questions are found in the type of injury that you have sustained.
An acute injury is an injury with a sudden onset, usually as a result of some sort of impact or trauma, such as a fall, sprain or collision. Acute injuries are sudden and sharp, occur immediately (or within hours) and cause pain (possibly severe pain). With this form of injury, two acronyms are extremely valuable to remember: RICE and HARM.
The RICE acronym is one that should be followed as the four factors help to reduce swelling and inflammation that is likely to occur within the first stages of healing for an acute injury. RICE stands for:
In contrast, the HARM acronym provides four factors that should be avoided with acute injuries, and stands for:
HARM is extremely important to remember within the initial 48 hours following an acute injury because both heat and alcohol cause the blood vessels to dilate (open up) – this increases the bleeding in the injured area. Exercising the body part or massaging the area also has the same impact and can be detrimental to the healing process.
Differing to acute injuries, chronic injuries can be subtle and may emerge slowly, with no known factor that triggered it. Chronic injuries may come and go, and may cause dull pain or soreness. Long standing low back pain is a classic example of a chronic injury, and often results from overuse and repetitive movements. However, if an acute injury is not effectively treated, it may lead to a chronic problem.
Heat therapy is frequently used for chronic injuries or injuries that have no inflammation or swelling – such as nagging muscle or joint pain. Using a heat pad, or getting into a warm bath can help to increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and stimulate blood flow, which can consequently aid pain relief. Whilst this is often a temporary solution, it can provide relief nonetheless.