You may be familiar with the RICE treatment plan for pains and strains. The Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation plan is beneficial shortly after injuries or to treat flare ups of chronic joint conditions. It’s that “C” that we’re going to look at closely today.
Where is this pain coming from?
You’ve probably noticed that after an ankle sprain or a day standing on arthritic knees, the joint swells. Swelling stems from the body sending in more fluids to an injured part of the body. Sounds useful, but the body sometimes goes a little overboard.
The extra fluid irritates pain receptors, keeps nutrients from getting to the area and compresses sensitive blood vessels. As if the injury wasn’t painful enough, excessive swelling can kill cells in the area causing secondary injury. Compression helps by limiting the amount of fluid that can build up in the area. This limits pain and secondary injury.
Compression can come from a few different materials. The traditional elastic compression bandage can be found at your local drugstore. Wrap it up around a joint and watch the pain subside. There are also pull-on compression garments for most joints that provide a steady squeeze. Then there are sleeves which combine both cold therapy and compression therapy into one, notably the Freeze Sleeve. The choice is yours!
When should I wrap it up?
The most obvious time to use compression therapy is immediately after an injury or surgery. The bandage increases the interstitial pressure and limits the influx of additional fluids during this trauma.
A recent article studied the effects of compression therapy on knees after knee replacement surgery . They found that persons who steadily used compression therapy reported more pain control, less stiffness, and less of a need to use pain killers. Keeping fluid off the knee certainly, helps the body heal itself and get you back on your feet.
What about day-to-day use?
After the exercise is good too. Another article studied the effects of compression therapy on joints after intense weightlifting- think sets of fifty and the occasional burst of “maximum effort”.
They found that muscle soreness from this activity peaks 2-3 days after exercise. For the group that wore a compression bandage around the clock, there was greater ease in performing daily activities during this healing time. Even better, the compression folks bounced back faster after strenuous activity. They were able to exercise again after 3 days versus 5 days for the control group. Something to think about if you’re following a strength training program for your knees.
With so many options for the types of compression garments, you can use, practicing compression therapy is a simple thing you can do to help yourself. Keep your painful joints under wraps and enjoy the benefits!