First Aid – Soft tissue injuries

What to do if you’ve got a soft tissue injury

Written by Dr. David Howard – B.Sc. (Clinical Sci.), M.H.Sc. (Osteopathy), B.App.Sc (Human Movement) from Pascoe Vale Osteopathy located in Pascoe Vale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

These 1st aid tips can be applied to any soft tissue injury, such as hamstring strains, pulled calf muscles, shoulder strains, corked thighs and sprained ankles.woman-hamstring-strain

First 48 hours

The first action to take as soon as possible after the injury has occurred is RICER – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Referral. This should continue for at least 48 hours after the injury as occurred. RICER helps to reduce bleeding, swelling and pain in the soft tissues. It therefore makes the recovery and healing process much faster.

Rest: Keep the body part as still as possible. This prevents further damage and slows down the bleeding in the soft tissues.

Ice: Ice is very important in reducing bleeding, swelling and pain. Never apply ice directly to the skin as it can burn. Wrap the ice source in a damp towel. Ice can mean anything from a bag of peas, a cold pack or ice cubes, whatever you have access to is fine just as long as it is very cold. Apply the ice for 20 mins, roughly every 2 hours, for the first 48 hours. Avoid pain always and use discomfort as a guide as not everyone will be able to put up with icing for a long period of time. If you are sensitive to the cold, it is better to do 3-5 mins every hour than none at all.

Compression: Reduces swelling and bleeding and also provides support to the area, reducing further injury. Use a firm elastic compression bandage  over the injured area as well as above and below. Routinely check to make sure there is good blood flow into your finger tips and/or toe tips.

Elevation: Raise the injured area above the height of the heart as frequently as possible. This reduces blood flow to the injured area so decreases bleeding and swelling.

Referral: Visit an osteopath to ensure correct diagnosis and treatment. A scan may be warranted to confirm the extent of the injury.

AVOID: Heat of any type as this increases the bleeding and swelling (i.e. heat lamps, heat creams, heat packs, saunas, spas) / Massage / Alcohol.

After 48 hours

Get weight bearing and moving within pain limits to prevent formation of inflexible scar tissue which can result in the area being weak and reinjured easily. Very light exercise, movement and mobility gets blood into the injured tissues and with it the nutrients needed to continue healing.

Avoid any activity that causes pain.

Osteopathic treatment (including soft tissue massage, mobilistaion and stretching) to physically loosen up the involved soft tissues, and to remove any of the biomechanical factors that may has caused the injury and may impair full healing.


Disclaimer: Information provided in this post is of a general nature and should not be used solely in place of individual advice from either myself or another medical professional. Pascoe Vale Osteopathy and Dr. David Howard will not take responsibility for any injury resulting from following information in this post.

Pascoe Vale Osteopathy provides osteopathic services to patients from a wide number of suburbs such as Pascoe Vale, Essendon, Essendon North, Moonee Ponds, Strathmore, Niddrie, Keilor, Coburg, Brunswick, Oak Park, Glenroy, Airport West, Travancore, Melbourne, Australia.