How to Reduce Swelling

Is Swelling Bad?

Swelling is the body’s natural response to injury and trauma. Fluids rush to the injured area to provide cells that heal the injured tissue. Although theses fluids are meant to protect and start the healing process, they 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.

Conditions That Cause Swelling

Swelling can be caused by various conditions which may include the following: 

How to Reduce Feet Swelling and Ankle Swelling - Why is it Difficult?

Swelling in the feet can be tougher to deal with than other areas. The main reason is gravity. The venous and lymphatic systems carry fluids and waist away from the body tissue. Those systems are aided by gravity and muscle contractions. Read this article Do You Have Swollen Feet to learn more about reducing feet swelling.

Standing and walking place the feet is a position that prevents gravity from assisting with fluid return. 

Click to learn more about What Causes Swollen Feet.

Swollen Feet Treatment

Since gravity is so important with reducing reducing swollen feet, it is important to place the feet in a position that allows gravity to help.  

Elevating the feet above the level of the heart is the best to do this.  Obviously you cannot stay in this position all the time, but 20 minutes at a time can help if your feet are swollen. 

Man lying on a couch with feet elevated above the heart.  How to reduce feet swellingElevating your feet will help swelling

Compression stockings may also help to encourage excessive fluid to move way from the injured or swollen area.

Click to Learn about Knee Swelling.

How to Reduce Swelling Fast- A Simple Protocol at Home

The quick answer to how to reduce swelling fast is the RICE protocol outlined below.

R – Rest

Learn how to relieve swelling.  Rest is a way reduce swollen feet treatmentRICE Technique Includes 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 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, reduces swelling, and keeps 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.

Swollen and bruised foot with ACE wrap to provide compressionHow 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.

This method has been tried and true for a long time 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 and The R.I.C.E. Protocol

By: Matt Paulus MS, ATC

To schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, please call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online or click below. 

To schedule an appointment with JOI Physical Therapy at one of our 12 Rehabilitation Centers, call 904-858-7045.

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