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How to manage an acute injury with the PRICE guidelines

The PRICE guidelines are commonly used to treat acute musculoskeletal injuries usually for the first week or so, especially when the injured area is painful and swollen. PRICE is a mnemonic for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. The following is a brief overview of the current recommendations of the guidelines:



Following the initial injury, it is important to protect the injury to prevent further damage from occurring and to reduce pain levels. This is usually in the form a muscle or joint support or sling that prevents excessive movement. The length of time you should protect the area varies according to the extent of the injury, however it is normally for the first 24-48 hours unless advised by your physiotherapist.


Similar to protection, it is important to initially rest your injured body part in the acute stage. This, again, is to prevent further damage from occurring and control the level of bleeding taking place around the joint or muscle. Following an assessment, your physiotherapist may prescribe some exercises which gently get the injured body part moving in a way that will not aggravate it.


Ice should be applied preferably crushed in a plastic bag wrapped in a damp towel or tea towel. It should be placed over the injured area with gentle pressure for around ten minutes for the first 24-48 hours, no more than once an hour. This can be increased to up to 15 minutes at a time after 48 hours for the first week after the injury first occurred. However, children and elderly people should not apply ice for longer than ten minutes at a time. You should also take precaution if you have any circulatory diseases such as diabetes, Raynaud’s or suffer from any sensory loss over the injured area.


You should apply compression to the injured body site using a tubigrip or bandage. This is an effective way to reduce swelling around the joint or muscle and prevent loss of movement that occurs with extensive swelling. You should, however, be cautious in compressing the area too tightly, as this can hinder circulation. If you begin to experience pins and needles or notice a change in the colour of the skin below the bandage then loosen it slightly.


Elevate the injured area above your heart. This overlaps with the Rest component of the PRICE guidelines in that it prevents you from causing further damage to the area and also with the Ice and Compressions components in that it helps to reduce the levels of inflammation via facilitating the return of blood to your heart.


When the symptoms have eased and healing has begun, physiotherapy is important to strengthen the surrounding muscles to prevent any future injury from reoccuring. The Physiotherapists’ at Mike Varney Physiotherapy can provide electrotherapy, massage, mobilisations and home exercise programmes to help with your healing. Should you be unfortunate enough to sustain an injury, our team of experienced physiotherapists are here to help you at our modern start of the art practice. To make an appointment please contact us on 01279 414959 or visit our contact us page.

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