The summer and fall see the largest number of sports injuries. As I personally learned earlier this summer, staying physically active places one’s joints at increased risk of trauma. Knees and ankles are the most vulnerable with weight bearing activity, and first-line care for injury to these joints is essential. While some accidents are serious enough to require prompt medical attention (read Signs and Symptoms of a Serious Knee Injury and Common Sense Approach to Ankle and Foot Injuries), most lower extremity trauma does not require urgent medical care and can be treated expectantly. Following the RICE protocol, as well as utilizing other home strategies, are recommended as first-line treatments for common knee and ankle injuries.
- Rest: Use crutches and do not put any weight on the affected extremity for the first 48-72 hours.
- Ice: Apply ice evenly every 1-2 hours for the first 24 hours and no more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Compression: Wear an elastic bandage or another compression device such as a sleeve or brace over the injured joint.
- Elevation: Position the injured extremity above the heart as much as possible.
Other strategies that treat acute joint injuries include the use of NSAIDs (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), although caution should be exercised by those with heart, liver, kidney and/or digestive tract problems. Halving the dose of the NSAID and adding low dose acetaminophen (Tylenol) seems to provide better pain relief for many versus taking a NSAID at full strength alone. Topical therapies such as capsaicin (Zostrix) cream, lidocaine patches and a variety of deep-heating rubs such as Ben Gay are safe and also may be helpful, especially if the injury is close to the skin.
Medical consultation is recommended if the guidelines discussed above provide little or no relief from pain and/or swelling, especially after employing one full week of home therapy. Contact our office at 208-772-5204 to schedule an appointment.
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