How to Reduce Swelling

Swelling is the body’s natural response to injury and trauma. Although theses fluids are meant to protect and start the healing process, it can also bring some lasting negative effects if it continues to linger. Some negative effects can be as follows: 

  • Decreased range of motion in joints.
  • Slowing of overall healing process.
  • Increased swelling in more areas than injured site.

So, how do you relieve swelling, and how do you reduce swelling due to an injury? The quick answer to how to reduce swelling is the RICE method. The RICE method is outlined in the paragraphs below. Swelling can be caused by various conditions which may include the following: 

swollen joints can be healedHow to reduce swelling and pain.

How to Reduce Swelling Fast- A simple Protocol 

R – Rest

Although this seems like common sense, many people try to push through the injury and get back to normal activity too quickly. Using the injured body part right after an initial injury only brings excess swelling to what has already begun to form and does not help reduce swelling. Continuing activities as normal with no rest brings more swelling to the area because the stresses you are putting on the injury causes the body to produce more fluid to continue to heal the damaged tissues. Taking a few days rest will help keep the swelling to a normal amount and the reduction of swelling will be faster in the long run.

I – Ice

Cold therapy always helps reduce pain and swelling. It reduces the blood flow to the area and can help reduce swelling and keep it to a normal level until healed. Any form of cold therapy can be beneficial, such as: ice packs, ice baths, and ice machines that deliver cold water to wraps. Ice should be used a few times a day for about 20-30 minutes at a time to reduce swelling effectively.

C – Compression

Pressure on an injury helps constrict blood flow and excess fluid from reaching the injury. There are a few ways to apply compression to an injury, but be careful to not apply too much to avoid cutting off circulation. Some common ways to apply compression are elastic bandages, compression sleeves for specific body parts, and cold compresses. As time goes on and the swelling is being reduced, make sure to adjust the tightness of the form of compression you are using to avoid return of the fluids.

How to reduce swelling with RICE.How to Reduce Swelling.

E- Elevation

The key to reducing swelling with elevation is to get the injury above the level of your heart. This decreases blood flow to the area which means less swelling. Sometimes you may have to adjust how you are sitting or lying down and reclining in necessary. If it is a lower leg injury like an ankle, keeping your feet up will decrease the fluid from pooling into your ankles.

As mentioned in the intro, there are many ways to reduce swelling, but this method has been tried and true for a long time. Swelling that lingers for long periods can stem from other serious medical issues and should not be ignored. If the RICE method does not seem to be working for you and swelling continues to linger or worsen, please do not hesitate to contact your doctor and get evaluated.

Physical therapy can play a major role in the reduction of swelling within the body. Therapists can use modalities such as ice, electrical stimulation, heat, laser, and soft tissue mobilization to help you get rid of swelling within your body. 

If you would like to read more articles by JOI, please follow this link for home remedies for foot pain.

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By: Matt Paulus MS, ATC

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