If you happen to sprain your ankle or strain your hamstring, immediate first aid can help you heal faster. No matter if you injured a joint or a muscle you should follow the R.I.C.E. protocol for 48 hours after your injury.
- Rest: Take a break for a day or two to let the injured area rest and recover. Your body needs time to heal the injury. Let pain be your guide as to what daily activities are fine. Once you can go about your usual daily routine without pain, slowly ease yourself back into training. Try the elliptical before going gangbusters on the treadmill.
- Ice: Apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a towel) to the injured area for 15-20 minutes every few hours. Ice helps reduce swelling and inflammation by slowing blood flow to the injury; it also lessens the pain by numbing it a bit.
- Compression: Between ice treatments, wrap an elastic bandage around the affected part to apply pressure and reduce swelling. Compression can also help provide support to a weak joint. It should be fairly tight, but make sure it doesn't press nerves or cut off blood circulation — if the end of the limb turns blue, that's too tight! It's also too tight if you feel throbbing in the bandaged area. For the same reason, don't wear the bandage at night.
- Elevation: Let gravity do the work — try to keep the injured limb raised above the level of the heart to prevent fluids from pooling in the inflamed tissues. For an injured leg, prop it up above the hips when lying down. Injured arms can be held up in a sling.
If two days post-injury your pain has increased or the swelling has not subsided, it's best to see a doctor or a sports injury specialist. A medical professional can properly diagnose the injury and recommend the correct form of treatment and rehab to get you back in action sooner than later.